May 1, 2007

Image analysis changing way we search, shop, share photos

Written by Ryan Blitstein, Mercury News

Someday soon, you might walk into the corner video store, point your camera phone at a DVD box, and instantly see reviews of the movie on your mobile screen. Or you’ll come home from a family vacation, upload pictures from your digital camera, and watch your computer throw out the ones with closed eyes or no smiles, and maybe even predict which shots you’ll like best.

After decades of work by researchers at America’s top universities and corporate labs, software that analyzes digital images – and extracts useful information from them – is making huge strides. Computer vision and image analysis programs from companies like Adobe, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are creeping into daily life, in security access scans at the office and red-eye reduction (even for pets) on digital cameras. Large tech businesses, start-ups and academics are racing to advance these technologies to change the way we search, shop and share photos and videos among family and friends.

Palo Alto computing and printing company HP, like many businesses developing products that use vision analysis, has yet to find a coherent strategy around the technologies. But HP has already built up a stable of related research and intellectual property, and soon plans an announcement regarding its work in the area. Eventually, HP hopes this software will help its customers make better use of their personal photos.

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