Drones light photo subjects, win awards for image capture

mit drone light

mit drone light

We’ve seen a lot of photos and videos captured by drones lately — but did you know they could also help you capture better shots yourself?

Researchers at MIT and Cornell University think the autonomous vehicles could automatically assume the right positions for photographic lighting.

“Lighting is crucial to the art of photography,” MIT says. “But lights are cumbersome and time-consuming to set up, and outside the studio, it can be prohibitively difficult to position them where, ideally, they ought to go.”

They might change that by providing “squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the positions necessary to produce lighting effects specified through a simple, intuitive, camera-mounted interface.”

The researchers will present a prototype system at the International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualization, and Imaging in August.

More information is here.

 drone stagram-eagle

That’s how drones might help you take better pictures — but of course, they also take shots “by themselves.” And now they are winning awards for it.

The 2014 Dronestagram Photo Contest “rewards the photos that show the best the fantastic potential offered by drones,” the organizers say.

The contest was sponsored by National Geographic, Go Pro, and others.

The full list of winners — and several amazing photos — are here.


Small 360-degree lens “revolutionizes selfies”

immervision lens

immervision lens

A new thin lens design may enable “every mobile and wearable device to deliver an unprecedented 360-degree experience,” claims optics developer ImmerVision.

The 3.8 mm panomorph (wide-angle panoramic) lens is the world’s smallest, the company adds, and makes “distorted fish-eye views and camera accessories obsolete.” It’s designed for compact phone or wearable devices, “yet it is capable of doing what no other lens can: deliver a distortion-free 360×182-degree view without having to pan the camera.”

Lens manufacturer Kolen is licensed to produce the lens, and plans to make it available by the end of this Summer.


First photo of… Photosynthesis


First photo of photosynthesis

All our vegetation, food, even our carbon-based fuels such as gasoline are all powered by or derived from photosynthesis — the process by which green plants convert sunlight into energy.

It is, surpassingly, a process we do not completely understand. But now, we have photographed it.

Scientists have “caught a central step of photosynthesis in action for the first time,” reports the scientific journal Nature. The team used the world’s most powerful X-ray flashlight at the US National Accelerator Laboratory SLAC “to record still frames of a molecular complex called photosystem II… This is the very first scene of a molecular movie showing light-driven water splitting in photosystem II, the mechanism which makes all oxygen in the atmosphere.”

This could lead to a deeper understanding of photosynthesis, which could aid development of better solar cells, and even “biochemistry’s holy grail, artificial photosynthesis.”

All that said, hey, it’s not much of a photo: “The LCLS provides an exposure time of just 30 femtoseconds (quadrillionths of a second), short enough to freeze-frame the water splitting process at different stages,” the report adds. But the study “also proves that molecular movies of biochemical processes are possible with a X-ray Free-Electron Laser.”

There’s more information here.



Microsoft and Canon cross-license patents


Canon logoMicrosoft and Canon say their “broad patent cross-licensing agreement” shows a “collaborative approach …to deliver inventive technologies that benefit consumers around the world.”

The agreement covers “a broad range of products and services each company offers, including certain digital imaging and mobile consumer products.”

Microsoft adds that since it launched its IP licensing program in December 2003, “the company has entered into more than 1,100 licensing agreements.”

The full announcement is here.

“Skinny lens” could yield cheaper surveillance cameras

french thin lens thermal cam

french thin lens thermal cam

“Dark alleys might not feel so dangerous someday thanks to a new ultra-thin type of lens, which could pave the way to making smaller and cheaper heat-sensing imagers.” That’s the claim of a team of French researchers who say they’ve found a way to make a thermal infrared camera with a lens made of  a much less expensive material: silicon.

The silicon lens is as thick as a fingernail with a diameter less than that of a No. 2 pencil, according to a report from The Optical Society. “Although its resolution is not superb, the lens is good enough to reveal the presence of a person and some general features.”

Potential applications for the imager include more affordable surveillance, particularly for home use, the researchers say. “It could detect people in a room, on a street corner, or in a dark alleyway.” The thin lens design could be a breakthrough in lowering the cost of thermal infrared camera lenses by using materials that are cheaper than traditional ones such as germanium and chalcogenide.

The design has been patented, but further work remains to make it marketable at a truly affordable price.

There’s more information here.


Busting mobile credit processing myths

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Business Success LogoMobile credit card processing systems allow merchants to process credit card payments with a physical credit card reader attached to a smartphone or tablets. Benefits include convenience, a streamlined POS system and access to a breadth of business opportunities based on collected consumer data.

“Nevertheless, mobile payments as a whole remains a hotly debated topic among retailers, customers and industry experts alike, reports Business News Daily. “To stay competitive, it’s more important than ever for small businesses to stay current and understand where mobile payment technology is headed. If you’re considering adopting mobile payments or are simply curious about the technology, here are 10 mobile payment myths that are completely untrue.”

Myth #1: I already have a POS system — the hassle isn’t worth it.

Myth #2: Setup is difficult and complicated.

Myth #3: All rates are conveniently the same.

Myth #4: Credit card information is stored on my mobile device after a transaction.

Myth #5: It raises the risk of fraud.

Details on the 4 listed here and five more are here.



Flickr spotlights cameras of yore

camera obscura

camera obscura

Start the week with a look back at some noteworthy cameras throughout history, illustrated with very appealing pictures of the devices, abetted by images they captured.

It’s part of the web photo sharing site Flickr’s celebration of National Camera Day, for which they “highlighted some of the most influential cameras from photography’s history and the lasting moments they continue to help us capture.”

The full entry is here.


ArcSoft, Canon each offer new printing products

arcsoft perfect365

arcsoft perfect365Imaging technology developer ArcSoft partnered with Mixbook to let users of its Perfect365 makeover program “use their flawlessly-edited images to create lasting memories in a Mosaic photo book – a sleek, 20-page album that can be created in less than five minutes.”

Perfect365 uses face detection to “automatically map a person’s eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth and hairline,” the company says. “This allows users to create professional-looking touched-up photos by choosing from dozens of pre-set templates for a flattering, realistic makeover inspired by today’s hottest styles, timeless looks or natural palettes. Users can also customize their look with nearly 20 tweaking tools that whiten teeth, brighten eyes, banish blemishes and much more.”

When 20 images are perfected, they can be added to a Mosaic with a few clicks, and made into a 7×7-inch photo book for a flat rate of $20 plus shipping. ArcSoft adds that “The great thing about photo albums is that they keep your favorite memories accessible and tangible. It’s a conversation starter, a great gift, or the kind of item you want displayed on your coffee table.”

• Canon says its mobile print offering works on top of Android’s recently announced printing framework and “enables users to print their business documents, personal documents and photographs to Canon printing systems over a wireless network.”

With the Canon Print Service “users who already own compatible Canon systems don’t need to upgrade their printers, nor download new driver software,” the company says.

It’s available here.


Smallest wearable cam streams through phone

multiple light box connectivity

multiple light box connectivity
A small wearable camera can consistently stream its feed of your life through your smartphone — and even simultaneously connect to multiple units worn by friends together at an event.

Catch Motion in New York City funded the project on Kickstarter, and says it will ship the camera for $189.

“Lightbox is designed to fit seamlessly into your everyday life,” they say. “Because it’s so easy to wear, small and waterproof, you can always have it on so that you can capture and share your life as it happens. Lightbox lets you auto-store media in the cloud, create events on the fly and share your day with family or friends in one click. It’s not just about capturing the perfect picture, it’s about sharing authentic moments in real time, all with the ease of a single click.” It can stream video, be set to capture stills that are kept private, or save animated motion gifs, “combining a burst of photos into a motion experience,” Catch Motion adds.

The 8-megapixel camera is 1.5 inches square, with a waterproof aluminum body. The 6-element lens has an f2.4 aperture.

The Lightbox’s patented magnetic clip lets you easily attach it anywhere, the company says.

There’s more information here.

Build your business’ better tagline

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A great tagline captures the essence of the value you provide to your customer in one or two concise sentences, according to Forbes. And, “creating a tagline is a powerful exercise, as it forces you to think about exactly what it is you do for your customers that is unique.”

How do you do it? Start with your advantage point, then ask three questions:

• What is the ultimate benefit I want my customer to gain?
•  How will my product make my customer’s life better?
•  Why is my business better than my competition’s?

What’s an example of a tagline that clearly indicates a unique advantage point? Verizon’s “Can you hear me now? Good.”

There are more tips in the full article here.