App captures marathon runners from start to finish

26 Sep 2014 12:28:09.870

This weekend sees the return of the Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham, and now, a new app for android phones will enable runners to re-live their own race long after they’ve crossed the finish line.

Scientists from the Mixed Reality Lab in the School of Computer Science at The University of Nottingham, have developed the app called ‘Run Spot Run’ to enable spectators to capture the entire race of a runner from start to finish, by simply taking footage of them at various points during the competition.

Marathons are large scale and geographically distributed – 13 or 26 miles of the route to try and film - but at something like the Robin Hood Marathon, there might be 10,000 spectators along the route, many of whom will have mobile phones and cameras and are looking for a glimpse of the person they support.

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Documenting runners

Dr Martin Flintham, Horizon Transitional Fellow in the School of Computer Science, helped to develop the app. He said: “While there’s some official video coverage of marathons already (for example the BBC’s coverage of the London Marathon using 51 HD cameras along the course), this tends to naturally focus on the elite professional runners, or provide a view from a small number of fixed viewpoints such as the official finish line photography.

“However, we thought about developing the app from the perspective that there’s also an interest in documenting the stories of the amateur and charity runners who take part for friends and family, especially at races like the Robin Hood Marathon, which the BBC wouldn’t bother with.

“Our approach is to get these spectators to use a mobile app to capture video, but also to use the app to spot and type in the bib number of the runners they see, while they’re doing it. Our app then records the position and time that this runner has been spotted in a video. As there are lots of spectators around the course doing this, we can then automatically extract all of the video clips of a particular runner from their tags and make a short individual souvenir montage video for that runner.”

Extensive coverage of runners

So overall, even if a spectator sees their friend running past them at one location, by having multiple people use the app, they can also possibly collect footage of other runners for different spectators, so collectively they can build a really rich distributed collection of tagged videos.

This weekend will be the first time the app has been made available to the public. It was previously tested as part of a private trial at the marathon last year, where 17 spectators managed to collect 11.5 hours of video and spot 2,500 runners.

The app has been developed as part of an ongoing research project funded by Google/YouTube as part of a Google Research Award of £25k that was won by the team last year. The project is also supported by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) through the Horizon Digital Economy Research grant.

If you are attending the marathon this weekend and want to give the new app a try, then you can download it at or from the Google Play Store

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also the most popular university in the UK among graduate employers, in the top 10 for student experience according to the Times Higher Education and one of the world’s greenest universities

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Story credits

More information is available from Dr Martin Flintham on +44 (0)115 784 4041,

Charlotte Anscombe – Media Relations Manager (Arts and Social Sciences)

Email:  Phone:+44 (0)115 74 84 417 Location: University Park

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