Five and a half year have been passed since the last real content appeared here on the blog. Ok, there was video post in between but that was 2010. Now we have got the year 2014, time elapsed so fast and I had a lot to do along the way. In 2008 and 2011 two daughters were born and children are very engrossing you. Because I am entrepreneur my profession is also very time consuming, so a lot of spare time jobs like this weblog had to be missed out. Today I will try to outline some of the interesting things I did in the last years.
As you can see at the video in “Driving Simulator for Caravan Trade Fair” I had something to do with simulation software to virtually drive cars. Originally developed as a driving school product for the end-user market, the “Driving Simulator 2009” had been completed as a casual game simulator, because after the first “Farming Simulator” the popularity of that genre was growing fast… at least here in some parts of Europe. You could choose between three car type and drive them free through town, a village or over high- and freeways or solve missions in various story lines. With free DLC we enhanced it by two new cars, a race circuit and some technical improvements. One year later a simulator, in which only tow trucks can be used, followed. It was the idea of our publisher Astragon and the complex interconnected physics of the crane, which were really simulated using PhysX like the driving, too, turned out as the highest difficulty in that project. The game generated random jobs, which put on weight later, and you could earn money for successfully completing them. But you have to avoid damage and pay attention to traffic rules. With enough wealth you are able to purchase better trucks. The game was situated in a complete new city and could be enhanced by the scenery of the first product. For 2011 we went back to free driving, predefined and randomly generated mission and included certain vehicles for special jobs like police, ambulance, truck, motorbusses, racing cars and a third diversified town. In 2012 we added off-road vehicles and a suitable pit. Furthermore all previous sceneries were bundled into one package. The 2013 edition closed the circle and incorporated practical driving school lessons and a district for compact exercise possibilities. All routes were created dynamically, so one or more repetitions of a lesson do not result in boredom. A theory test was also included in the German version.
As much as it may sound I only worked a few months of the year on every game. Mainly I spend my office hours on projects for television and sport events. We created a second soccer analysis tool, which later had been named “tvSOCCER” by our client company Swiss Timing. At the UEFA Euro 2008 it was used by the Austrian broadcaster ORF to show virtual frozen shots or animated scenes from matches in the break or the debriefing. Until 2009 the software had been enhanced by the ability to cut out real players as cardboard figures from one or multiple camera images of the same time. The leftover was projected onto the playing field or being replaced by a virtual stadium. And in the resulting model the camera view could be modified and animated, explanatory drawings could be displayed and figures could be moved. At first those features were used by the public German broadcaster ARD and subsequently by the German and Austrian Pay TV channels of Sky. With the addition to show interactive player lineups our program was brought into operation at the 2010 FIFA World Cup for the ORF, again.
Around 2010 we wanted to enhance “tvSOCCER” by automatic camera and player tracking. A lot of code had been developed and the camera detection functionality could already be used but it was not already real-time optimized, when our client decided to shift our right evolved image processing power to new fields. First we had to create a generic runtime solution, which is able to perceive the camera movement between video frames. That was done on GPU using CUDA.
Afterwards we continued with the detection of athletes in alpine skiing and at last with curling stones. The skiing project had already been tested but the curling one was actually on duty for the OBS at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
And there is another large project. It is the one, which claimed most of my time in the last two years and its name is still not official. So I will only call it “scoreboard system”. What does it do? It is a system, which has the ability to show scores on a board. That doesn’t sound sensational, does it? Well… And it does not look spectacular, too. Ok, it is a little bit more than it may sound. It is very flexible. It can receive data from various sources in various formats and the output can be automatically animated, if elements are changing or a time line is advancing. Videos from files and streams can be integrated. Photoshop files can be loaded as dynamic elements, where texts and image are being swapped and moved. Other than that there is an editor to create and manipulate layouts and connect elements to data inputs. And all of the two-dimensional stuff is computed and rendered in 3D space so the layouts or effects can easily be upgraded to the next dimension. In addition many, many small things have to be done and the system should run days without disruption.
While I primarily did graphics programming and some mission scripting in the “Driving Simulator” series, I was the main architect and implementer of “tvSOCCER” and the “TigerHeart” engine. I also created the first working application framework of the scoreboard system and now I am still responsible for visualization and runtime code and the basic integration of many new features. For the tracking projects I am also architect of the runtime and its external connections and I am porting Java to C++ code and optimizing the results for realtime usage afterwards.
And there were and are other projects, in which I have only small stake like the board game conversion of ” Hey, That’s my fish!” for Xbox 360 and PC: “Pingvinas“.