Freitag, 10. Oktober 2014

How robot is your camera? Today: Pet Recognition

To make me write about cameras these days they have to be exceptional good, bad or they have to offer something that really surprises me. The Ricoh, a new rugged compact camera for rough duties under water as well as in snow and ice, belongs to the third category.

 It is not because of the spec list (water-proof down to 12 meters under sea level, drop-proof from 1.5 meter, crush-proof up to a 100 kilogram, freeze-proof down to minus 10 degrees celsius). All this is more or less in line with what we have come to expect from a rugged camera. It is because of little feature at the very end of a long list of functions: pet recognition.

Face recognition I knew, though I barely us it. Smile recognition dito. But pet recognition made me pause, wonder and at first cringe. After giving it a second thought though, I saw one benefit and one interesting twist in camera development that I had not thought about before:

1. The benefit: For many people pets are family, and as such they like to take pictures of their cats, dogs and mice. To offer a pet detection to help people not only to keep humans but also their animal friends in focus, too, is only consequential. I just wish Ricoh would offer also fish detection since it is an underwater camera. That would come in very handy because under water the handling of cameras is a bit more of a challenge than at land.

2. The twist: With every new little assitant, even cameras are transforming more and more into little robots. With smile detection they press the shutter themselves. Image stabilisation evens out the hand and camera shake. The Ricoh also offers a selfie mode - without a second screen. Instead the LEDs around the lens indicate by blinking whether your head is in the frame or not. 

But this is just the first step. In the future, cameras might even help you to erase people from your photographic memory without having to employ a sissor (crude), Photoshop (less crude) or the supercomputers of Hollywood's CGI brigades (refined).

As I wrote in one of my columns on the German edition of Technology Review (translated title: Virtually realized realities), Toshiba shops around with a stereo camera module for smart phones that can also capture 3D data like light field cameras. And one feature of this device is to enable us to spirit unwished persons or objects that spoil our image out and away.  

And who knows, maybe this all can be done in the smartphone by the smartphone itself. "Martin", the smartphone might ask me, "you have taken a group photo. I see that Mr. X is in the picture that you just have unfriended on Facebook. Shall I erase him?"

More of this crazy stuff is to follow. Camera manufacturers dig deeper and deeper into the repertoire of computational photography to make taking pictures more fool proof. You see, what I mean?

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