Weird photo science: putting fake objects into real photos

We recently wrote about unblurring blurry photos a couple weeks ago. Now comes video (embedded above) showing real-time, dynamic, and easy-to-do insertion of fake objects into any photo. This is part of research led by Kevin Karsch, a PhD student at the University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign. The user makes a bare-bones sketch of objects and lighting in the photo, and then drags an object into the image. The software then realistically places the object into the photo with proper lighting and collision. It’s difficult to describe, so you really should watch the video. Look for animations going through photos, bouncing off walls, casting proper shadows, and interrupting complex light patterns in a very natural way. Ordinarily, this sort of composite work would take expertise and hours, but the narrator says that one example in the video was done by a novice user in just 10 minutes.

I found this video via James Fallows’ blog at the Atlantic. Fallows calls this the latest, “What hath God wrought?” moment for technology and links to a short essay worrying about the democratization of image manipulation tools.

Entire Connections series now on youtube


I have incredibly fond memories of watching James Burke‘s late-1970s BBC series Connections late at night on PBS during middle school. It’s a strange show, a meandering narrated documentary series about the history of science that draws well-known and obscure connections between major events in the past and present. The show is borne from a connected worldview of technological progress, “that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation. Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting for reasons of their own motivations (e.g. profit, curiosity, religious) with no concept of the final, modern result of what either their or their contemporaries’ actions finally led to.”

Now, the whole series is available to watch on youtube. Give each episode some time…they’re slow at first, but by the end of each episode, you’ll never have expected to have arrived where you ended from where you started.

(via kottke)

People Photos = Good (If They’re Real People)

Tracking eyes looking at photos on websites (detail) -

Eye tracking has emerged as an important part of measuring audience engagement and user experience on the internet. Devices record where a user’s eyes fall when looking at a website and the data from those experiments guide the future design of the website. Via bloggasm, I came across a look into how users view photos as web content. And while the data is not directly applicable to news websites or journalism, it does confirm what photographers already know: relevant photos of people increase user involvement with content. Interestingly, the findings also show that stock photos of generic people and situations get almost no attention from the user.