Vladimir Brajovic is a robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. His goal is to give a better vision sense to robots. But in an unexpected side-effect, he developed a smart system to automatically enhance underexposed photos. The result, the Shadow Illuminator, is quite convincing.
The Shadow Illuminator, funded through a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, was developed originally to help robots see better. Using principles based on the physics of how optical images are formed, Shadow Illuminator imitates the vision processes that take place in the human eye. It examines the content of a photograph, estimates the illumination conditions and then brightens shadows. It also enhances details within the shadow.
"Shadow Illuminator is intelligent and works consistently for all pictures," said Brajovic, director of the Computational Sensor Laboratory in Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. "It provides the same results quickly and eliminates the hassle of manually adjusting photographs."
Before going further, let's take an example extracted from the Shadow Illuminator Public Gallery.
Here is an original picture taken by "lasse", from Gothenburg, Sweden (Credit: "lasse" and Shadow Illuminator™).
Now, this is the same picture after Shadow Illuminator enhancements (Credit: "lasse" and Shadow Illuminator™).
The Shadow Illuminator, which has a patent pending on its technology, is being commercialized by Intrigue Technologies, Inc., a company formed by Brajovic that specializes in software and hardware for electronic imaging under difficult lighting conditions.
You can find details on this patent by visiting the United States Patent and Trademark Office and search for patent number 6,421,132.
Visitors to the free Shadow Illuminator site can upload pictures and apply Shadow Illuminator to achieve brighter, clearer results. For visitors who sign up for a free account, the site also creates a personalized album to hold their uploaded photos.
I guess this will become one of my favorite services.
Sources: Carnegie Mellon University news release, via EurekAlert!, December 9, 2003; and various websites