When doing certain types of welding, special helmets with dark lens shades should be used to protect the eyes from the extremely bright welding arc and sparks. The masks help filter out light, protecting your eyes, but at the same time make it hard to see the details in what you’re doing. In other words, the dynamic range is too high, and wearers are unable to see both the arc and the objects they’re welding.
A group of researchers in the EyeTap Personal Imaging Lab at the University of Toronto have a solution, and it involves cameras. They’ve created a “quantigraphic camera” that can give people enhanced vision. Instead of being tuned to one particular brightness, it attempts to make everything in front of the wearer visible by using ultra high dynamic range imaging.
For example, a welder using the helmet would be able to see both the details of the bright welding arc and the details on the metal he or she is working on.
Here’s a slightly technical video explaining the project:
What’s interesting about this project is that it’s the brainchild of Professor Steve Mann, who pioneered modern HDR photography back in 1995 by publishing a mathematical paper on the subject. We wrote about Mann back in July after he got into a confrontation over his cyborg-style eye camera.
In addition to having industrial applications, HDR vision might be useful for ordinary consumers, especially as we’re entering the age of augmented reality glasses.
Imagine being able to see all the small details of the world around you in HDR simply by wearing a special pair of camera glasses. Think the idea is far-fetched? Mann is already seeing in HDR! His camera eyepiece uses three cameras set to different exposure values. The 125fps footage is combined in real-time to provide him with a high dynamic range view of the world.
Even if ordinary consumers don’t find any value in this technology, it could one day be used to make life easier for those with vision problems.
Image credits: Photographs by EyeTap, portrait of Steve Mann by Glogger