Wanted: A Robot Cameraman
Both of the classes I am currently teaching are in rooms set up for video recording; interested readers can find the results here and here. I arranged it that way partly for the convenience of students who miss a class or want to review, more to make the classes available to anyone in the world with an internet connection who is interested.
There is, however, one problem. The camera is set up with a field of view that is virtually the entire width of the wall I am standing in front of. The result is to make the image of my face too small to readily read my expression, which largely eliminates the advantage of having video as well as audio recording. The resulting recordings do not look nearly as good as the recordings of public lectures of mine that have been made on various occasions and webbed.
The simple solution, which I hope to persuade the people in charge of the system to adopt next time I use it, would be to narrow the field of view down so it only covered the central location where I am normally standing. One disadvantage of that as a general solution to the problem is that professors sometimes move around to make use of the whiteboard, which also runs the full width of the wall, or for other reasons.
That problem could be solved by having a human behind the camera, either physically present or via remote control, pointing it at the professor's face, wherever it happens to be. But that would significantly raise the cost of recording lectures. Part of the attraction of the present system is that it does not require any human intervention.
Which suggests that what we really need is a robot cameraman. Modern cameras have face detection software that seems to work pretty well. It should be possible to use such software to detect where the speaker, the only person at the front of the room facing the camera, is standing, and automatically focus on him. I do not know if such equipment exists yet, but it should.
The novelty requirement in U.S. patent law bars the patenting of an invention that has been publicly disclosed less than a year before the patent is filed. Start your engines.