Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed April 13, 1998
Contact: Scott Turner

Researchers patent technology for voice-activated camera tracking

Brown engineers have received patents for technology that supports voice-activated camera tracking. The technology has been licensed to Polycom, a maker and marketer of videoconferencing products.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Two engineering researchers at Brown University have received patents for computer technology that supports voice-activated camera tracking and have licensed the technology to Polycom, a maker and marketer of data and videoconferencing products. The technology allows a camera to focus automatically on the current speaker during a meeting or teleconference.

The license was announced by Polycom and the Brown University Research Foundation. Under the license, Polycom has exclusive rights to implement the technology, which received its second U.S. patent April 7. Polycom said it will use the technology to "provide superior automatic camera operation as a feature of its award-winning ViewStation(TM) group videoconferencing system, as well as future videoconferencing products."

The technology was invented by Harvey Silverman and Michael Brandstein. Silverman is dean and professor of engineering at Brown. A former Brown undergraduate, Brandstein earned a master's degree at MIT and a doctorate at Brown, working with Silverman. Brandstein is now an assistant professor of engineering at Harvard.

The patents were issued for computer-based computations and their implementation that determine a talker's location from data acquired through an array of microphones. Locations of sound sources are estimated about 35 times per second, allowing a camera to aim automatically toward a talker, even if he or she moves. Other patented computations created by Silverman and Brandstein allow a microphone to pick up a clearer acoustical signal, supporting the voice-activated tracking.

"I'm delighted that we've licensed the technology for videoconferencing applications," said Silverman. "In research, what is eventually patented always comes with a lot of learning along the way."