When tourists visit famous landmarks, they commonly pull out their own cameras to snap some photographs as mementos, even if they themselves aren’t in the picture. Despite the fact that there’s almost always guaranteed to be an identical photograph taken by someone else, somewhere online, there’s something about capturing the moment for oneself that makes redundant photos special.
That’s why a new patent filed by Google is a bit puzzling. It’s called “Image zooming using pre-existing imaging information” and, as the title suggests, revolves around using other people’s photographs to “boost” a digital camera’s zoom.
Here’s the abstract, or simplified explanation, of the patent:
Aspects of the invention pertain to enhanced zooming capability of user devices. A user device such as a mobile phone with a camera may capture images of different objects of interest. The capture and zooming limitations of the user device are overcome by replacing, supplementing or otherwise enhancing the image taken with one or more geo-coded images stored in a database. For instance, if the user attempts to zoom in on a feature of an object of interest and exceeds the zooming capability of the user device, a request is sent to a remote server to provide an image showing the feature of the object of interest at a desired resolution. The server determines which, if any, stored images correlate to the captured image of the object of interest. The resulting imagery is provided to the user device and is presented on a display.
Here’s how it’d work: let’s say you’re snapping a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge from a beach nearby. You try to zoom in to capture one particular portion of the iconic structure, but suddenly find yourself at the end of your camera/phone’s zooming ability.
Have no fear — Google is here. The technology would quickly do a search online — presumably in Google’s private archives — to see if there is any identical image that matches what you’re trying to photograph. If the position, orientation, zoom, and direction match up, then Google beams the replacement photo to your camera. Voila! Instant zoom! Everyone’s happy!
Well… not really.
As I mentioned earlier, the big obstacle this feature would need to get over is the fact that people aren’t capturing their own photographs, but re-capturing photos that were taken by someone else. For simple information gathering purposes this might suffice, but it seems unlikely that it’s something tourists (or the general public) would readily embrace.