Computational Photography: Image Of The Future

Computational photography focuses on the future in a way that today's digital camera does not. Digital cameras are really just like cameras have been for a hundred and fifty years; they focus light onto a chip instead of onto film.

CSAIL researchers Bill Freeman and Frédo Durand is a way of expanding the possibilites; it uses the images as a set of data that are manipulated using computer algorithms. Take a look at the three pictures shown below to see how computational photography can eliminate blurring.

(Computational photography eliminates blurring)

“Right now digital photography is very much modeled after what worked for film exposures, which is having a single snapshot where that’s the final answer. With computational photography it’s a set of data and you can go and process it,” said Freeman. “Through computational photography I think it will be much easier to get sharp images, to get high-dynamic range images, to get panoramic images, to get really nice photos from small hand-held devices.”

Durand and Freemand are also interested in extracting more information from a scene. To examine motion, they developed a technique to magnify it. Through this procedure, viewers can compare the movements of two cars with different loads or closely examine an infant’s breathing. As these algorithms allow users to expand specific movements exponentially, parents and doctors could use this approach to ensure a child is breathing normally at night.

“One thing I tend to say is that computation is the new optics,” said Durand. “If I wanted to see something smaller before I would just get a bigger microscope, but now we can create algorithms that reveal what would not be visible otherwise, and that’s really exciting.”

Fans of the 1982 movie Blade Runner recall the Esper photo analysis which allowed Deckard to zoom in on areas of interest in photographs.

(Blade Runner Esper photo analysis machine)

For another science-fictional take on photography, consider the Agfom potent shot film used in Philip K. Dick's 1964 novel Clans of the Alphane Moon:

Moving toward the door, Alfson said, "Glad to. This film I'm using - I'm sure you've run across it at CIA; it's expensive, but helpful." He explained to both Chuck and Joan. "I've just taken an Agfom potent-shot. Does that strike a chord? What I have in this camera is not a record of what you did just now but what will go on here in the next half hour..."

Via this excellent article at CSAIL.

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