Israeli Firm Enters Olympics with Virtual Runners, Finish Lines

Israel may not break any world records at the Sydney Olympics, but an Israeli company is providing the technology that allows television viewers to see more than is actually happening at some Olympic events.

Orad Hi-Tec Systems is providing the technology chosen by several leading international networks to enhance their sports broadcasts during the games.

The Kfar Saba-based company allows broadcasters to integrate computer-animated images seamlessly into the “real” picture.

Among the techniques being used at Sydney are virtual runners, which run alongside the real Olympic athletes at a pace of the world record holder. The virtual runners look like they are a part of the action and allow viewers to get a better feel how close the runners are to a world record.

Broadcasters are also using the company’s Virtual World Record Line at several swimming and track and field events. For example, a computer-drawn line marks the spot a long jumper must cross to break a record.

“This will so far be the most significant global exposure of Orad’s technology,” said Avi Sharir, chief executive officer.

Networks using Orad’s tools include NBC in the United States, ARD in Germany, NHK in Japan, France2 and Australia’s Channel 7.

Orad is a publicly traded company on the Neuer Markt stock exchange in Frankfurt.

It also deals in virtual advertising, which allows broadcasters to overlay virtual ads onto a playing field or around its perimeter. But this technology is not being used at the Olympics, since there is no on-field advertising allowed at the games.

Meanwhile, RealTimeImage, another Israeli technology company, has also received a boost from the Olympic Games.

Sports Illustrated magazine is using the company’s technology to help it process and edit thousands of images from the Olympics.

RealTimeImage’s server allows editors on opposite sides of the globe to collaborate on photos without having to transfer them to a nearby server.

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