Lytro refocuses on higher-end photography

lytro illum

lytro illum

Imaging developer Lytro garnered lots of attention for its innovative light field photography which captures “the color, intensity and direction of every light ray flowing into the camera,” as the company puts it, “a massive amount of visual information that allows photographers to recreate sights and scenes on a truly experiential canvas.”

However, the first small camera, aimed at the mass market and priced at $399 in 2012, failed to gain popular acceptance as most decided they did not need a camera that delivered photos with less resolution than most phones, even if those photos could be refocused from foreground to background after capture.

Recently, post-capture refocus has been offered by other companies, including a free update last week from Google for its Android camera software. So clearly Lytro needed to market something else…

That something else turns out to be Illum, a “professional-grade” camera the company claims will “redefine the way we portray the world around us” and “give photographers a new medium capable of capturing visual experiences in their purest form — not as a static cross-section of reality, but an authentic, interactive window into their world.” The camera will let photographers “adjust focus, tilt, perspective shift, and depth of field,” Lytro says.

The camera has a new larger sensor, an 8x optical zoom (30mm-250mm equivalent) with a constant f/2.0 aperture, and a 1/4000 of a second shutter “capable of freezing motion under a wide variety of conditions.” There’s also a 4-inch articulating touchscreen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, GPS, and WiFi. It will ship in July for $1,599.


Axis “Critter Cams” connect wildlife to the world

axis critter cams

axis critter cams

Axis Communications primarily develops security and surveillance products — but on Earth Day it notes the work of non-profit organizations “who raise awareness of wildlife and conservation projects through live Web streams of animal habitats” using its network cameras.

“Hundreds of thousands of viewers” can now see the animals without disturbing them, the company says. The “critter cams” let viewers share in the daily lives of animals “usually hidden in forests, groves or high atop trees.” The 24/7 HD streams “are an important educational tool to protect, preserve and promote awareness of wild animals and the threats they face in a changing environment.”

Axis adds that “video plays a significant role in building an emotional bond between people and the animals they view, which can encourage continued donations to support the cause. The video also contributes to scientific discovery and aids in the rehabilitation of injured wildlife – all without disrupting animal habitats.”

Among the links online now:

•       Herons, albatrosses, owls, hawks and more at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology live streams.

•       Bald eagles at the American Eagle Foundation live stream.

•       Bears, eagles, hawks and vultures at the Wildlife Center of Virginia live streams.

•       Save the Manatee Club Web stream.

Google gets blurry

google blur 2

google blur 2

Lens blur, that is. Bokeh has become the accepted term for artfully-applied blurry backgrounds. While much sought-after in some circles, it requires skillful manipulation of shallow depth of field to achieve the effect in-camera, or plenty of time to simulate the look in post-capture image editing with Photoshop or a similar tool.

Now Google is offering a free computational photography process for quickly and easily getting the same appearance — albeit only in the latest version of the camera app for its Android smartphones.

The Lens Blur tool in the new Google Camera app “lets you change the point or level of focus after the photo is taken,” Google says. “You can choose to make any object come into focus simply by tapping on it in the image. By changing the depth-of-field slider, you can simulate different aperture sizes, to achieve bokeh effects ranging from subtle to surreal (such as tilt-shift). The new image is rendered instantly, allowing you to see your changes in real time.”

google blur 1

The Lens Blur effect “replaces the need for a large optical system with algorithms that simulate a larger lens and aperture,” Google adds. “Instead of capturing a single photo, you move the camera in an upward sweep to capture a whole series of frames. From these photos, Lens Blur uses computer vision algorithms to create a 3D model of the world, estimating the depth (distance) to every point in the scene.”

You can read the full post from Google’s imaging engineers here.


New Eyefi Cloud makes digital camera images instantly available on any device


eyefiEyeFi has made another new stride in connectivity with Eyefi Cloud, a private, photo-centric cloud service that makes newly captured photos instantly available on a smartphone, tablet, PC or smart TV. Eyefi Cloud was designed for photo enthusiasts who want to shoot with a digital camera, but are frustrated with the time-consuming processes required to enjoy their photos on multiple devices. The company says their new Eyefi Cloud service, along with the Eyefi Mobi wireless SD card and Eyefi Mobi apps, makes every picture taken organized and instantly accessible, anytime, anywhere—to enjoy, curate and share securely and privately.

Discover more here.

RFID tags trigger photo capture — on a Zipline



Here’s a cool use of new technology to boost revenues from photography services: Radio Frequency IDs are low-power devices that emit identification signals. A new system at a Hawaiian zipline park uses RFID technology to trigger image capture and also assign the shot to an individual guest.


The Snapsportz system automatically sorts images, and retrieves each guest’s photos on demand. At interactive kiosks, guests order prints or digital copies, upload one or all images to a USB drive, or post images to their Facebook page.

“The current system is working extremely well and, with negligible additional cost, has more than doubled revenue for our entire zip line operation,” says the zipline facility, Princeville Ranch Adventures. “By ensuring high-quality image capture for our guests and making it effortless for them to find and share their images, we help ensure they get the most out of their zipline experience. And, because approximately 85 percent of guests choose digital versions of their images that lead to great reviews on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Instagram and other sites, it paints a picture of fun for our guests that also promotes our business.”

Flying camera improved

drone camera


drone camera

Camera-equipped quadcopters let you capture stills and video from previously unreachable heights — and the technology is still in its infancy. The latest model from DJI boosts image stabilization, has longer WiFi range, and flies twice as fast: it can now even shoot in 25 mile-per-hour winds.


The Phantom 2 Vision+ drone comes with a 14-megapixel camera that captures 1080p video, with new three-axis image stabilization that corrects pitch, roll, and yaw, for smoother video.


With an app and mobile device, the planes 700-foot range WiFi will show you what its aerial camera is capturing as it happens, as well as altitude, the plane’s distance from you, and its battery strength (a charge is good for 25 minutes). The drone also has GPS.


The Phantom 2 Vision+ drone is $1,299. 




reShoot: easier editing of iPhone video

reshoot S

reshootWhen making a video on an iPhone, “there’s no easy way to correct a mistake without having editing skills, say the developers of reShoot, which lets you rewind and re-shoot unwanted portions of video without resulting in multiple clips that you would have to piece together.

“reShoot enables almost anyone to be a film producer without requiring editing skills,” Wally World Media says. Its free app for iPhone and iPad lets you “add new footage to existing video recordings… Instead of capturing dozens of clips, it provides a single video stream or montage.”

There’s an explanatory video here.

The app is here.


Retailers can profit from “3D Selfies”

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 12.49.13 PM

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 12.49.13 PMIn my market overview presentation at PMA@CES 2014 I pointed to solid 3D objects as near-future high-margin output products for retailers. Well, the future comes fast these days, as San Jose, Calif.-based Artec Group launched its Shapify.Pro, which it bills as “a new iteration of its 3D selfie technology designed for small businesses and retailers who want to provide customers with scale model figurines of themselves, their kids and more.”

The kit uses a Microsoft Kinect sensor array to scan customers in 3D. The scans are then uploaded to the Shapify website, and figurines are delivered to the business or customer within five days.

The Shapify figurines are 3D printed in monochrome or color plastic. The small businesses kit includes a $999 printing credit—matching the initial investment of $999 for the Shapify.Pro — “and special rates designed to allow 3D selfie businesses to become profitable,” the company says.” Base prices range from $40 for a 1:20 (small size) printed figurine, $80 per 1:15 (medium) figure, and $140 for each 1:12 (large) printed model. Suggested retail prices are $79, $129,  and $199. Artec Group says it estimates “business owners can make almost $5,000 per month by selling two small and three medium figures every work day, and one large every other work day.”

There’s more information here.


Aviary updates iOS imaging app SDK

aviary screen

aviary screen

Those iPhone pics may get better looking: Online image editing developer Aviary has improved its offering for embedding editing tools in iOS apps.

The company says its software development kit is used by many social services, retailers such as Walgreens, sites including Photobucket, and “thousands of hit indie developers. In fact, more than 7,000 developers now partner with Aviary to give their users a magical photo editing experience.”

The new iOS photo editor SDK features a new user interface, a customizable look and feel, 64-bit support, and a “fully updated set of photo editing tools.”

Aviary adds that its SDKs have been used to edit more than 10 billion photos in the last 12 months.

There’s more information here.


Photo recognition improving in Facebook, Google Glass



Who’s that in the picture? Pretty soon you won’t have to guess, as face recognition technology gets better, and more widespread.

Facebook has its “DeepFace Project,” and it’s software “matches faces almost as well as you do,” reports MIT’s Technology Review. “Facebook’s new AI research group reports a major improvement in face-processing software. Asked whether two unfamiliar photos of faces show the same person, a human being will get it right 97.53 percent of the time. New software developed by researchers at Facebook can score 97.25 percent on the same challenge, regardless of variations in lighting or whether the person in the picture is directly facing the camera. That’s a significant advance over previous face-matching software, and it demonstrates the power of a new approach to artificial intelligence known as deep learning.”
The “DeepFace” technique uses a 3-D model to virtually rotate faces, so they face the camera. It currently recognizes two images show the same face, rather than putting a name to a face.


Developers at Orbeus claim their ReKognition API detects and recognizes faces, and is both optimized for social photo applications, and working on Google’s Glass wearable devices. “We are the first and only company to provide a proprietary cloud-based image analysis solution that makes sense of faces, scenes and objects all together.”

The computer vision company’s latest work improves on “concept recognition,” determining what a picture is a photograph of: objects, scenes, and landmarks. “ReKognition can now recognize objects, scenes and landmarks in images: cats, cars, foods, flowers, beach, desert, forest, nightlife, Golden Gate Bridge, Arc de Triomphe and thousands more.”

TechCrunch reports Orbeus’ face and scene detection API platform ReKognition for Glass sidesteps Google’s face recognition ban, as it only detects gender, age and emotions of people’s faces _ not personal identities. (For now.)

Also, the Next Web reports on Orbeus’ latest, ReKoMe, an iPhone app which can find any image on your phone. “ReKoMe uses its database of thousands of categories to intelligently do that classification for you. Already programmed to locate specific photos according to time and geolocation, ReKoMe takes the search function further by automatically organizing images into commonly used categories. It can recognize some 3000 concepts including scenes, objects, and people in its universal search function.”