Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lightfield camera headed for the consumer market

A recent article in the New York Times reveals that Lytro, a Mountain View, CA startup, plans to release a lightfield camera into the point-and-shoot consumer market later this year, allowing professional and amateur photographers to "take shots first and focus later."

With $50 million in venture funding, the company is led by Ren Ng, a Stanford University Ph.D. who wrote his thesis on the subject of lightfield cameras. His work and that of others are described in the March 2008 Vision Systems Design article Sharply Focused.

Several research organizations and machine vision camera manufacturers have developed lightfield cameras, including Stanford, MIT, Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, Raytrix, and Point Grey Research. Like traditional cameras, lightfield cameras gather light using a single lens. However, by placing an array of lens elements at the image plane, the structure of light impinging on different sub-regions of the lens aperture can be captured.

By capturing data from these multiple sub-regions, software-based image-processing techniques can be used to select image data from any sub-region within the aperture. In this way, images can be recreated that represent views of the object from different positions, recreating a stereo effect. Better still, if the scene depth is calculated from the raw image, each pixel can be refocused individually to give an image that is in focus everywhere.

An interactive photo from the Lytro website gives an idea of the potenial uses of lightfield cameras (hint: click on an area of the image to focus). And there will be a Facebook app.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Don Braggins remembered

Don Braggins, a long-standing and highly respected figure in the machine vision industry, has passed away at age 70. Founder of Machine Vision Systems Consultancy in Royston, England, in 1983, Don specialized in image processing and analysis and was a frequent contributor to and participant in organizations such as the European Machine Vision Association and the UK Industrial Vision Association (UKIVA). First as a founding member of the UKIVA in 1992, he became its director in 1995, and helped guide its development for many years. He remained a consultant to the association until diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2010.

Traveling frequently with his wife Anne, Don was welcomed by companies, universities, and trade organizations around the world for his experience, insights, and good humor. Before establishing his own company, he was product marketing manager for image analysis products at Cambridge Instruments. A graduate of Clare College, Cambridge University, he was a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of SPIE.

Machine Vision Systems Consultancy was known for its independence as a source of information about machine vision products and services. Clients varied from multi-nationals, to startup companies, venture capitalists, and OEMs.

As editor of technical journals and frequent contributor to trade press magazines, Don regularly researched the European market for industrial vision systems for individual clients and associations. Between 2000 and 2002 he served as a non-executive board member of Fastcom Technology, a Swiss spinout from EPFL Lausanne. He was also a board member of Falcon Vision in Hungary, providing international marketing advice and technology sourcing, and introduced Falcon to the French company Edixia, which subsequently bought a controlling stake.

“Don knew the machine vision industry like the back of his hand,” remembers Andy Wilson, Editor of Vision Systems Design. “You could always rely on him to direct you towards the latest developments and innovations shown at a trade show. He was not only knowledgeable but would freely share his valuable opinions and thoughts with anyone who cared to ask. I will miss him.”

In addition to his wife Anne, Don is survived by two children and five grandchildren.

The staff of Vision Systems Design extend our sincerest condolences to the Braggins family.

--Conard Holton, Vision Systems Design