Researchers at Google and MIT have figured out a way to automatically remove reflections and obstructions from photographs, and their latest demo of the technology is amazing.
Check out the 6.5-minute video above for an explanation of the algorithm and some examples of what it can do.
Basically, instead of shooting a single static photo, the photographer captures a short sequence of images while slightly moving the camera around between frames.
The algorithm can take a photo obstructed by a chain link fence and then magically remove that fence for a clear image:
Differences between the reflections/obstructions and the scene can be detected and extracted by comparing all the different shots, resulting in one clear photo of the obstruction-free background scene, and one clear photo of the extracted obstruction (e.g. a reflection or fence).
Now that’s where things get even crazier: the algorithm is able to provide clear photos of what reflections show — it’s like something out of science fiction or CSI. Here’s an example in which a photo taken through a building window produces a clear view of the inside of the room:
The algorithm works on everything from reflections to chain-link fences to raindrop-covered windows.
No word yet on when this technology might make it into a consumer smartphone or camera, but we’re guessing camera companies (and law enforcement agencies) may be very interested in looking more closely at this research.
Image credits: Video and photographs by Tianfan Xue/Michael Rubinstein/Ce Liu/William Freeman/MIT/Google