While searching for fresh ideas, Edwards discovered machine vision systems, which in essence use "smart cameras" to capture and analyze images. They're typically used for purposes like photographing products coming off a conveyor belt to have a computer check for flaws.


Inspired by this technology and earlier camera-based motion games, Edwards wondered if it could be done on a larger scale. He assembled a team to build a working prototype and soon discovered that it was, in fact, possible. Of course, building the prototype was only half the battle. Edwards now needed to find a buyer willing to take a chance on something completely new that had never been done on such a large scale before.

"We looked for people with deep pockets," says Edwards. "Pro sports seemed to fit our criteria." Sporting organizations generally aim to provide a non-stop entertainment experience, and Edwards figured a system that had the crowds playing a quick game would be a good fit. It didn't hurt that sporting venues are fairly similar, which would help avoid hassles with installation.

Enter the Urbandale Centre, home ice for the Ottawa 67's.

With the prototype in hand, Edwards approached team VP Burgess about piloting the project.

"We're always looking for ways to entertain fans and ways to get them more involved in being fans," says Burgess. "And CrowdWave promised this."

As Edwards describes it, the initial setup was not particularly smooth. It was mired with technical glitches, most stemming from trying to get a computer running Windows connected to the arena's older broadcast equipment. Then there was the issue of the fans themselves.

"We had no idea how they would move," says Edwards.

But on October 30, 2009, the spectators confronted by this new videogame system did move, though some tweaks needed to be made to the overall presentation.

Since that initial trial run, CrowdWave has grown rapidly. In a year, the company has gone from three employees (bulked up by freelancers) to a dozen, moving into a larger office to accommodate everyone. The Vision Interactive system has gone from being installed in two venues to being set up in arenas across the U.S. in places ranging from Columbus, Minnesota and Dallas.

More venues hosting the technology and more fans becoming familiar with the system created the need for more games. For NBA teams, there's a tip-off game in which fans must jump in time with a virtual basketball player to tip a ball into the net. There's also a large-scale take on Rock, Paper, Scissors in which one spectator is chosen to take on the entire crowd, which votes on its choice through hand gestures. The quick pace of RPS allows venues to run either a single play or hold a best out of three match.

The games can also be as simple as sports trivia questions made interactive by allowing sections to vote for their answer by putting their arms up in a particular direction.

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