Computational Photography – Unleash the Caged Lion

“If digital photography is like a caged lion that stays in one place”..what is computational photography?  Stanford, Columbia and MIT are some of the institutions involved in studying and developing computational photography – which “captures a machine-readable representation of our world to synthesize the essence of our visual experience” (Ramesh Raskar, MIT) Computational photography makes the camera a powerful computer – capturing something that goes way beyond what the eye can see. One device, called the the Stanford Frankencamera as designed by Professor Marc Levoy explores the ideas beyond making a camera that merely mimics film photography in pixels.

According to the Stanford Website: Representative techniques include high dynamic range imaging, flash-noflash imaging, coded aperture and coded exposure imaging, photography under structured illumination, multi-perspective and panoramic stitching, digital photomontage, all-focus imaging, and light field imaging.

Although interest in computational photography has steadily increased among graphics and vision researchers, progress in some aspects of this area has been hampered by the lack of a portable, programmable camera platform with enough image quality and computing power to be used for everyday photography. To address this problem, we are pursuing two subprojects:

  1. Computational Photography on Cell Phones. Over the past five years, the cameras in cell phones have improved dramatically in resolution, optical quality, and photographic functionality. Moreover, camera phones offer features that dedicated cameras do not – wireless connectivity, a high-resolution display, 3D graphics, and high-quality audio. Finally and perhaps most importantly, these platforms run real operating systems, which vendors have begun opening to third-party developers. We are taking advantage of these trends to develop computational photography applications for commercially available cell phones.
  2. The Stanford Frankencamera. Despite these encouraging trends, there are computational photography experiments that simply cannot be implemented on today’s cell phones. either because the cameras’ sensor or optics aren’t good enough, the computing resources aren’t powerful enough, or the APIs connecting the camera to the computing are too restrictive. We are therefore building an open-source camera platform that runs Linux, is fully programmable (including its digital signal processor) and connected to the Internet, and accommodates SLR lenses and SLR-quality sensors. Our current prototype is constructed from off-the-shelf parts, in some cases borrowed from dead cameras. It’s also ugly – hence the name. Our goal is to distribute this platform at minimal cost to computational photography researchers and courses worldwide.

Camera 2.0, which began as a collaborative project between the Stanford Computer Graphics Laboratory and the Nokia Research Center Palo Alto Laboratory, is currently also supported by Adobe Systems, Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, and the Walt Disney Company. READ MORE or Hear a lecture from MIT about the basics of its development.

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