Thursday, May 27, 2010

Computer solves 400-piece puzzle in 3 minutes; scary implications for photo manipulation

by Sebastian Anthony (RSS feed) May 24th 2010 at 9:30AM

Following on from a New Scientist article that was written a few days ago, I ended up on the website of Taeg Sang Cho -- a graduate student at MIT. He's been working on a bunch of advanced imaging algorithms -- with gifts and grants from big names like Microsoft, Adobe and Google.
His recent work -- three research papers -- is all about content-aware manipulation of photos. I'm struggling to pick one because they're all awesome, so I'll just give you the highlights:

  • A probabilistic jigsaw puzzle solver -- this is the technology featured in the New Scientist article, so there's lots of dumbed-down details if you don't want to read the paper itself. In essence, it does exactly what a human does: matches edges, but it does it quickly and very accurately. Similar technology could be used in photo manipulation (and may indeed already be used by Adobe's Content-Aware Fill) -- the biggest give-away when you manipulate images are edges. This technology could magic away those edges!
  • A content-aware image prior -- this is a funky way of saying 'image restoration', and I wouldn't be surprised if this is a sneak-peek at the technology you'll see in Photoshop CS6! Look at the sample photo -- the results speak for themselves.
  • Motion blur removal with orthogonal parabolic exposures -- (phew, just typing that gave me a bit of a hard-on) -- in layman's terms, this is blur removal by taking two photos from slightly different viewpoints and then... performing some magic. Again, look at the sample images for some fantastic proof. I wouldn't expect to see moving lenses in still cameras any time soon though...
It's all very exciting stuff that we'll likely begin to see in consumer software in the next year or two. I just wish there was a video of the jigsaw puzzle solving!

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