Posts Published in April 2010

Google Acquires Photo Search Startup Plink

Google has acquired UK-based mobile photo search startup Plink for an undisclosed amount.

The company’s sole product Plink Art is an Android application that allows you to look up information about a piece of art by simply photographing it with your phone.

The application was one of the winners of Android Developer Challenge 2, scoring a $100,000 prize for winning in the “Education/Reference” category.

Remind you anything?

Artwork recognition is one of the features offered by Google Goggles, which is what Plink’s founders will be working on at Google.

Since the Plink only has 50,000 users, this is mostly a talent acquisition to improve Google’s visual search technologies.

The announcement posted to Plink’s blog gives a glimpse into where Google would like to go with visual search:

The visual search engines of today can do some pretty cool things, but they still have a long long way to go. We’re looking forward to helping the Goggles team build a visual search engine that works not just for paintings or book covers, but for everything you see around you. There are beautiful things to be done with computer vision – it’s going to be a lot of fun!

Imagine a world where you can “Google” information about anything by aiming your cell phone at it and snapping a picture.

Adobe Unleashes Photoshop CS5

After building up anticipation by releasing sneak peeks at upcoming features such as Content-Aware Fill and Puppet Warp, Adobe has unveiled Photoshop CS5, the latest version of its popular image editing program.

Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop CS5 Extended are expected to start shipping next month at the price of $699 and $999, respectively. If you already own Photoshop and only need the upgrade, it’ll set you back $149 or $349.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the new features:

Better HDR

Companies like HDRSoft (makers of Photomatix) can’t be too pleased about this one. Adobe claims to have greatly improved the HDR capabilities in this new version. In addition to greater speed and accuracy, they now have ghost artifact removal (to combat camera shake) and the ability to emulate the look of HDR using single photographs.

New Painting Module

CS5 now features a painting module through which you can “paint” over a photograph. This feature flips photorealism around and allows you to turn your images into rather convincing paintings.
Instead of using an artistic filter, which can produce unreliable results, the painting tools allow for a more organic feel: the program shows a live view of the virtual brush tip as you paint.

Lens Correction Feature

Another major feature is almost a subtle addition compared to the other features, but it makes a huge difference in the way we can edit. Adobe is including a lens correction feature which corrects for distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting based on what lens you used according to the EXIF data. The folks over at dpreview predict that CS5 will come with preset lens profiles – much like color profiles – for Nikon and Canon lenses. Photoshop also enables the ability to customize your own profiles with the possibility of sharing profiles with a larger community of users.

Adobe has also taken several pointers from community feedback with regards to the lens correction filter options.

Adobe Camera Raw 6: Non-Destructive Editing, Add and Remove Grain

Adobe Camera Raw 6 alone is plenty to get excited about. It uses the same processing engine as the Lightroom 3 beta and supports more than 275 camera models. It also allows nondestructive editing not only for raw files, but also for JPEG and TIFF.
There’s a new Grain feature which mimics the look of film grain, which provides an alternative to the film grain artistic filter, but is also nondestructive and can add an evenly dispersed grain to the entire image.
On the opposite spectrum, ACR also has improved noise removal controls that can prove quite handy when shooting at a high ISO.

Improved Edge Detection

In each iteration of Photoshop, Adobe has constantly improved its ability to distinguish edges for making selections and masking. CS5 has new adaptive selection-edge modification controls, such as Smart Radius, which selects the best edging style when selecting different types of subjects. Adobe has also added extra view modes to preview selections. The other features include Refine Radius and Erase Refinements, which can be particularly helpful when trying to reduce and remove background colors that show up through a subject’s hair.

Content-Aware Fill

Content-Aware Fill has received the most attention in CS5 preview coverage, and it’s no wonder why. This feature provides the ability to remove parts of a photograph and replace the void with a practically seamless filled area. You can either make a selection using Content-Aware Fill, or use the spot healing brush on the Content-Aware Fill setting.

Puppet Wrap

Puppet Warp allows elements in a photograph to be convincingly repositioned using anchor points.  Anchor points act like joints, and when appropriately placed, can be used to manipulate arms, legs, and other elements of an image composition. Like most of these new features, it’s another impressively powerful tool for creative individuals.

Image Credits: Thomas Hawk and Adobe Systems

Driving Wooden Chairs in Stop-Motion

Here’s an amazing stop-motion video created for Nissan, and promoting zero emissions mobility. It’s amazing that a sense of speed and danger can be created from photographs of people sitting still in wooden chairs.

You can do this same idea with an “invisible” bike or car as well. Just take photographs of a person jumping into the air and posing as if they’re riding a bike or driving a car.

Why Facebook Should Buy Palm

Major tangent, but one of the big stories of the day is that Palm (yeah, the cell phone and PDA maker) is putting itself up for sale. There’s a discussion going on over at Engadget regarding which company should make the purchase, with HTC coming out as the crowd favorite.

We’re surprised that Facebook wasn’t even on the list. Here’s why we believe Facebook should be the company to buy Palm:

Happy monday! We now return to our photography-related scheduled programming.

Sony a352 Concept DSLR Camera Design

The “Sony a352″ is a concept camera design by Ryan David Francis, a Industrial Design Student at the California College of the Arts. His aim in the design was to create a camera that focuses on how people hold cameras:

The design of the Sony a352 focuses on how a camera is held and how the user takes a picture. By allowing the user to have a multitude of hand positions, the end result is ultimate creative control.

Another designed feature of the a352 is the sloped angle of the LCD viewing screen. This feature creates a comfortable eye to viewfinder interaction by allowing greater clearance between the user and the camera.

In other words, the design keeps oil off your LCD by keeping from being pressed against your face when you’re staring through the viewfinder.

What are your thoughts on this design? What do you like or not like about it?

Image credits: Photographs by Ryan David Francis and used with permission

Greek Man Sues Swedish Company over Turkish Yogurt Photo Use

Athanasios Varzanakos, a Greek man, is suing Swedish dairy company Lindahls for using his image on containers of Turkish-style yogurt. The $6.9m lawsuit alleges (in 40 pages, no less) that the image is misleading because the man has no connections whatsoever with Turkey.

According to BBC News, chief executive Anders Lindahl claims the photo was legally licensed from a stock library:

We bought it from a photo agency so we assumed that everything was in order

PDNPulse also sheds a little more light on the cultural aspect of this case:

The (hilarious) photograph doesn’t just have legal implications. The use of a Greek man’s likeness to promote a Turkish-style yoghurt is a cultural faux pas given the centuries-old conflict between the Greeks and Turks, which began when the Greeks gained their independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Despite the lawsuit, the photograph is currently still featured prominently on the Lindahls website. I can imagine why — this is publicity you can’t really pay for.

What do you think of this story? Should Varzanakos be awarded money for being portrayed as a Turkish man?

DIY LEGO Nikon Remote for $7 Plus Time

Instructables member KoZuEst made his own remote for his sister’s Nikon D60 with a LEGO and a bit of electrical know-how. He says the total cost of materials, not including the circuit board and his time, was around $7 — as opposed to spending ~$40 for a Nikon remote. Not bad!

If you’ve got the urge to unleash your inner electrical engineer, check out his instructions here.

(via Instructables)

Ex-Owner of Polaroid Likely to Appeal 50-Year Ponzi Sentence

Tom Petters, a former owner of Polaroid was sentenced yesterday to 50 years in prison for heading up a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme.  One of Petters’ lawyers, Paul Engh, told reporters that his client is likely to appeal the sentence.

In 2008, Petters was charged for money laundering, wire and mail fraud. He allegedly used falsified documents to convince investors that he was putting their money towards consumer electronics produced by Polaroid and his other associated companies. Instead, prosecutors say Petters paid investors with profits made from other investments.

Petters was found guilty in December 2009. US District Judge Richard Kyle handed the sentence yesterday.“This was a massive fraud and the defendant’s involvement in the fraud was front and center,” Kyle said.

The already troubled Polaroid company, which had previously filed for bankruptcy in 2001, was purchased by Petters in January 2005. Under Petters’ watch, the company fell into bankruptcy once again, in 2008.

(via Amateur Photographer)

House Season Finale Filmed Entirely with Canon 5D Mark II

The season finale of the popular TV show House, which will air on May 17th, was filmed entirely with the Canon 5D Mark II. cinema5D overheard the plan last month and Greg Yaitanes, the director of the show, has confirmed it through a tweet in which we made himself open to questions.

We’ll republish some of the interesting questions and answers here, interview style:

@MVRamunno: What is the difference in how it looks on a TV screen compared to a regular camera?

Greg Yaitanes: richer. shallow focus pulls the actors faces to forground [sic]

@oamad0101: How many frames per second and why a Canon 5D Mark II?

GY: 24p and wanted it for ease of use in tight spaces.

@unikissa: Ok, seriously. Can you tell us something about the lenses you used?

GY: all the canon primes and the 24-70 and the 70-200 zoom

@sarabury: Did you have to change any of your working practices to fit in with differences between the 5D and a typical setup?

GY: some. focus was hard with these lenses but more “cine-style” lenses are being made as we speak.

@marykir: were you using CF cards for storage or some sort of mass storage mod? seems like you would need a lot of cards :)

GY: some 18gb or something like that card. gave us 22 min of footage.

@Drdiagnostic: How was the quality as compared 2 the traditional camera used in shooting?

GY: i loved it and feel it’s the future. cameras that can give you these looks

@klizma: How did you manage to stabilize the camera in tight spaces? Any special kind of brackets?

GY: no. mostly gave it a hand held feel. or on a small tripod

This is quite an endorsement for Canon, with a network giant entrusting the finale of one of its most popular shows to the 5D Mark II (which happens to be the first digital camera to take the Presidential portrait as well).

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the popularity of the show:

In 2008, House was distributed in a total of 66 countries. With an audience of over 81.8 million worldwide, it was the most watched television show on the globe and far surpassed the viewership figures of the leading TV dramas the previous two years

If you haven’t yet, check out the short film, The Last 3 Minutes, which we posted earlier today. It was filmed with the same camera.

(via Canon 5D tips)

Photo Scavenger Hunts for Wikipedia

If you’re looking for a photographic adventure, check out Wikipedia Takes the City or Wikimedia Photo Scavenger Hunts for an event near you.

These are one day scavenger hunts conducted in particular cities that offer fun and competition for photographers while providing photographs for Wikipedia articles that lack them.

The first such event was Wikipedia Takes Manhattan, which was coordinated by Columbia University and New York University students. The event had a target list of 188 locations, of which 92 were successfully captured and added to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia Takes Philadelphia will be going on this Sunday (April 11, 2010). Check out the contest page here.

All Wikipedians and non-Wikipedians are invited to participate in team of up to three (no special knowledge is required at all, just a digital camera and a love of the city) […] There will be prizes for the team who takes the most targets.

If you’d like to participate in one of these hunts, you could try to start one for whatever city you’re living in!