Chip can improve amateur photo snaps

Feb. 19, 2013 at 4:09 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a new chip providing "computational photography" can convert smartphone snapshots into professional-looking photographs in seconds.

Developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the chip can clean up common flaws in amateur photographs by performing tasks such as creating more realistic or enhanced lighting in a shot without destroying the scene's ambiance.

Existing computational photography systems in cameras and smartphones tend to be software applications that consume substantial power, take a considerable amount of time to run, and require a fair amount of knowledge on the part of the user, the researchers said.

"We wanted to build a single chip that could perform multiple operations, consume significantly less power compared to doing the same job in software, and do it all in real time," Rahul Rithe, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said.

One capability of the chip is to enhance the lighting in a darkened scene more realistically than conventional flash photography.

"Typically when taking pictures in a low-light situation, if we don't use flash on the camera we get images that are pretty dark and noisy, and if we do use the flash we get bright images but with harsh lighting, and the ambiance created by the natural lighting in the room is lost," Rithe said in an MIT release Tuesday.

The chip can capture two images a split second apart, one with a flash and one without, then merge the two images, preserving the natural ambiance from the base layer of the non-flash shot while extracting the details from the picture taken with the flash.

The researchers say they have already built a working prototype of the chip and integrated it into a camera and display.

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