In sharp contrast to the Leica way of doing things by hand, Canon has just announced that it is planning on completely eliminating the need for a human production line as early as 2015. So while your future Leica M10 will still be completely hand-made (with a price tag to match), your future 5D Mark IV (or maybe Mark VI by then) will be entirely robot-made.
Fortunately, Canon spokesperson Jan Misumi assured the press that the move won’t lead to job losses, as employees will be moved into other parts of the company. But it does seem to take a little bit of the humanity you see in the Leica making of video out of camera manufacturing.
Robots might not be able to convey emotions or tell stories through photographs, but one thing they’re theoretically better than humans at is calculating proportions in a scene, and that’s exactly what one robot at India’s IIT Hydrabad has been taught to do. Computer scientist Raghudeep Gadde programmed a humanoid robot with a head-mounted camera to perfectly obey the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. New Scientist writes,
The robot is also programmed to assess the quality of its photos by rating focus, lighting and colour. The researchers taught it what makes a great photo by analysing the top and bottom 10 per cent of 60,000 images from a website hosting a photography contest, as rated by humans.
Armed with this knowledge, the robot can take photos when told to, then determine their quality. If the image scores below a certain quality threshold, the robot automatically makes another attempt. It improves on the first shot by working out the photo’s deviation from the guidelines and making the appropriate correction to its camera’s orientation.
It’s definitely a step up from Lewis, a wedding photography robot built in the early 2000s that was taught to recognize faces.
By 2053, cameras are going to become so automated that they start thinking for themselves, and then realize that humans are a threat to great photography. This photograph leaked from the future shows a couple CanonBots duking it out.
The Paparazzi Bots are a series of robots invented by Ken Rinaldo, a faculty member in the Department of Art at Ohio State University. Each bot is autonomous, and moves about on a wheeled platform, using infrared sensors to move towards humans. It’s goal is to take single photographs of people, and it makes decisions on whether or not to capture the photograph based on facial expressions of the subject. If you happen to be smiling, the bot is more likely to photograph you.
Here’s a short video demonstration of the bot in action:
Rinaldo was invited to deploy three of these bots at the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and two of the bots were also used at an art and digital culture festival in Berlin.