“Frankencamera” Could Revolutionize Photography

Industry Perspective

“Frankencamera” Could Revolutionize Photography

by Ron Leach

Scientists at Stanford University are attempting to revolutionize photography with the development of a unique “open-source” digital camera platform they say will provide programmers with the freedom to fine-tune a camera’s response to light and motion, adding their own algorithms to process raw images in innovative ways.

Stanford computer science professor Mark Levoy says the premise of the open-source technology—dubbed Frankencamera—is that programmers everywhere will be able to modify camera performance and features like focus, exposure, flash, etc. rather than relying on software that comes pre-installed by the manufacturer. Graduate student Andrew Adams who is working on the project envisions a future where photographers will download applications to their open-source cameras in much the same way that iPhone users download Apple apps today.

Levoy expects the Frankencamera’s operating software to be publicly available in about a year, after which users will be able to continuously improve it. His plan is to have the camera manufactured as a platform that will initially be available at minimal cost to other researchers in the field of “computational photography” which he helped establish. In the fledgling field of computational photography, scientists use computers, software, imaging chips and the optical bench to develop new techniques for extending the capabilities of photography.

If Levoy and his team are successful, researchers will be able to move experiments from their labs to sports stadiums, the seashore, photo studios and other favorite venues of photographers everywhere.