Color advances social imaging, scores $41 million investment

A new startup’s free application for iPhone and Android allows people in close proximity to capture and have real-time access to photos, videos, and text simultaneously from multiple smart phones.

The company says it offers “the best way of sharing an experience without the hassle of passing cameras around, emailing or uploading images and videos online. We believe real social interactions are dynamic and evolve with time.”

Color says its patent-pending “Multi-lens” technology “intelligently identifies nearby smartphones, whether at a local park or at a concert, using advanced proximity algorithms.  Every photo, video, and text captured by each smartphone through Color is instantly shared with surrounding phones also using Color. There are no attachments, uploading or post-production work required.  For the first time with Multi-lens, you will finally get to see and keep all photos from everyone at a shared moment, including ones that you are actually in.”

The company says every photo and video captured is stored on the web for immediate access via the application without requiring storage space on a phone.  “Capture every experience without worrying about using up memory; Color has infinite capacity.  Each day is beautifully displayed as a series of thumbnail images.  Scroll through days, weeks, or even months, instantly using an intuitive touch interface.  Tap on any image to go back to the day when it was originally captured for full contextual information, like who was involved, who saw it, and whatever conversation it sparked. Looking back has never been so detailed, easy and fun.”

The Palo Alto, CA-based company raised $41M in financing from Bain Capital Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Silicon Valley Bank.  Proceeds will be used to develop Color’s technology and provide service on a global scale.

Where’s the revenue to come from? Directed advertising, most likely, as the service potentially collects massive data about what people are doing and where they’re doing it, without collecting personally identifiable information.





Sony offers pro camcorder

Sony says the new 35mm-sized Exmor CMOS sensor in its NEX-FS100 is specifically designed for shooting motion pictures with “outstanding exposure latitude and sensitivity” for high-definition footage that’s free of “image artifacts… and is capable of producing footage with a shallow depth of field similar to that of a film camera.”

The $5,850 interchangeable-lens camcorder produces 1920 by 1080 60P frames recorded at 28Mbps.

“The NEX-FS100E NXCAM Super 35mm camcorder enables budget content creators and videographers to experience a new level of cinematic expression” the company says.


Sony also announced the HXR-NX70E, which it bills as the first dust-proof and rain-proof professional HD camcorder.

For filmmakers and journalists who “travel to some of the most remote and dangerous locations in pursuit of a story,” Sony says, it is offering “a camcorder that, like them, can stand up to the rigors of the world’s most challenging conditions.”

The robust ultra-compact camcorder is “proven to reach dust-proof and rain-proof performance requirements specified by IEC60529 IP54. Sudden rain or dust will not affect the operation of the camcorder, making the HXR-NX70E ideal for the most inhospitable of environments,” Sony says.





“Invisible Camera” uses newly-developed film

By harnessing ambient light, a new camera system amplifies the light that forms the image.

That’s the claim of German photographer Chris Marquardt, who says he worked with scientists from the Max-Planck Institute and German film manufacturer Spürsinn.

The approach is similar to the way a laser amplifies light by stimulating the emission of photons, a press release says. “But instead of creating an emitter of coherent light of a single wavelength, Marquardt and his team have found a way to uniformly amplify the entire visible spectrum, making the technology usable for regular photography.”

Named “The Invisible Camera,” the system currently uses film — but is gathering interest from digital imaging makers as well, Marquardt says.





Canon improves surveillance cameras

Three 1.3-megapixel IP security cameras from Canon offer “sophisticated built-in video analytics to increase the effectiveness of video security monitoring,” the company says.

The cameras capture potentially crucial image detail in low-illumination environments down to at least .03 lux at f/1.6 and 1/8 sec. in color, and at least .001 lux at f/1.6 and 1/8 sec. in black and white.

Canon adds its “Smart Shade Control” automatically adjusts the contrast between bright and dark areas of the image for optimum detail display, and its night mode increases low-light sensitivity as compared with previous Canon IP security camera models.

Analytics assist in identifying potentially crucial details in the captured video, including abandoned, moving, and removed object detection, Canon says.

The cameras combine image processing and simultaneous transmission of video up to 1280 by 960 at 30 frames per second.

The products include, the VB-M40 pan/tilt/zoom network camera with a 20x zoom lens; the VB-M600VE fixed vandal-resistant IP66 rated outdoor network dome camera; and the VB-M600D fixed network dome camera; they are priced respectively at $1979, $1299 and $1059.




YouTube makes videos without a camera

“No video camera? No problem!” says online video service  YouTube. “Create original videos with your own photos, clips or just an idea.”

As more than 35 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, the company says, “it’s hard to believe that anyone is left out of the YouTube experience. But the truth is, sites like YouTube do largely leave out people who don’t have a video camera.”

And so Google’s video service launched, amalgamating the video creation sites Xtranormal, Stupeflix and GoAnimate with which anyone can “make personal videos or animations.” GoAnimate and Xtranormal Movie Maker create animated videos with just a text storyline. Stupeflix combines images into a video slideshow.




Socialcam shares video

Justin.TV, the makers of Socialcam, say they offer “the easiest way to share videos with friends. With a few clicks you’re able to record, tag and share videos as well as browse, like, and comment on your friends’ videos.”

The app for iPhone and Android features unlimited video length and storage, automatic streaming video upload that starts uploading when you start recording, tagging, and easy sharing to Facebook and Twitter.

Reviewer Rafe Needleman says it “makes sharing media so simple that it fundamentally alters the experience, when compared with previous products that did the same thing.”

Socialcam is available in the App Store and Android Market.





3D Nintendo “changes the way you view portable entertainment”

With its 3DS, Nintendo introduces “portable entertainment in 3D” without the need for special glasses.


Now on sale in the United States for $250, the game device has three cameras: two for 3D photography, and one pointed at the player.

The 3DS has two screens: The top screen displays 3D images without needing glasses. The bottom screen is touch-sensitive.

“The 3D display is amazing in its own right,” the company says, “but just as compelling are the new forms of game play it delivers, and the groundbreaking ways it will connect players to new content, and each other.”

More information is here.




LG and HTC phones capture and displays glasses-free 3D

HTC’s EVO 3D mobile phone can capture and view 3D without glasses. Two 5-megapixel cameras capture 3D images and video, “opening up new frontiers for user-generated content, social networking and streaming video,” the company says. “The ability to enjoy glasses-free 3D on a wireless phone will change the way customers interact with their devices.”

The phone has a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video chat, a 4.3-inch display, and a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor. It will be available this summer from Sprint.

The LG Thrill 4G is a similar phone: 4.3-inch glasses-free 3D display, and dual 5-megapixel stereoscopic camera. It will be exclusive to AT&T.

The “LG 3D Space” service provides 3D games, video clips and images “for quick, convenient access.”

Sprint says customers can benefit from 3D capture and playback in such ways as:

• Real estate agents can create and share 3D virtual tours of homes that let out-of-town buyers “walk through” the house and truly experience the listings before they can see them live;

• Dad can feel like he is in the bleachers watching the ball leave the park for a homerun even if he’s forced skip a Little League game because he is stuck at the office;

• 3D mapping of terrain will help build new and exciting features for navigation, and hikers will be able to get aerial views of the topography of rivers and mountains while in the backcountry; and

• Families can “relive” the excitement of their vacation and feel like they are there again.

Also, the HTC EVO 3D will be the first 3D handset pre-loaded with the “Blockbuster On Demand” mobile application with access “to one of the largest catalogs of movies, including 3D titles.”


Sprint cites to interesting reports:

• According to The NPD Group’s 3D 360° Monitor, consumers show a high degree of interest in working with personal media in 3D, with one-third saying they would like to take photos in 3D.

More information is here.

• According to ABI Research, mobile 3D devices will be driven by three key applications: creation of user-generated 3D content by integrated video and still cameras, playback of 3D content and 3D gaming. It also anticipates that mobile devices may turn out to be the most successful form factor towards bringing 3D technology into mainstream markets.


Sprint also announced the EVO View 4G, a tablet design with a 7-inch 1024 x 600 touchscreen, 5 megapixel auto-focus camera, and a forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera.

Sprint says it currently offers 4G service in 71 markets in 28 states.




Kodak continues imaging suit against Apple, RIM

The U.S. International Trade Commission will review Kodak’s case alleging Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry violate Kodak’s patent on an image-preview.

Kodak reportedly gained $550 million from Samsung and $414 million from LG over the same patent, and says it may add more than $1 billion in revenue from royalty payments from Apple and RIM.

Bloomberg reports Kodak generated $838 million from patents last year, and expects $250– $350 million annually from intellectual property licensing through 2013.

Kodak reported in January its 2010 revenue of $7.2 billion, about half the total from 2005, and said two of its three main business had losses from continuing operations before interest expense, taxes and other charges.

Apple and RIM have also filed patent claims against Kodak.


Meanwhile, Reuters reports the ITC ruled that Apple has not violated any of five patents cited by Nokia in its lawsuit. Nokia filed suit against Apple in October 2009.




Canon prints fast for pro photo products

Canon says its “inaugural entry into the production photo printing market,” the DreamLabo 5000 inkjet, “combines exceptional photo and text quality together with high productivity… and offers the retail photo printing and the high-end print-on-demand markets a new alternative to traditional silver halide processing technology.”

Canon says its FINE (Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) print-head technology achieves color representation rivaling that of conventional silver halide processing, with high-speed printing of high-quality photos and detailed text to support a variety of value-added output, from premium photo albums, photo calendars, photo collages and other merchandise.

Also, new high-density print head enables output up to 12 inches wide, and requires a single pass of the paper while the print-head remains in a fixed position, Canon says.

The DreamLabo 5000 can print a 20-page A4-size (8.27 by 11.69-inch) photo album in 72 seconds, or 40 4 by 6 prints in one minute.

The printer is slated for to be available in early 2012.





Engineers invent lens for 3D microscope

Ohio State University researchers developed a 3D lens for microscopes that sees 9 different angles simultaneously.

Made of thermoplastic materials, the lens has nine facets, and each captures the object from a different angle, which are combined on a computer into a 3D image.


“Using our lens is basically like putting several microscopes into one microscope,” the researchers say.

Other 3D microscopes use multiple lenses or cameras that move around an object; the new lens is the first single, stationary lens to create microscopic 3D images by itself.

The lens is a proof of concept for manufacturers of microelectronics and medical devices, who currently use very complex machinery to view the tiny components that they assemble.

More information is here.



Japan earthquake’s impact on camera business

Following the earthquake and continuing power plant problems, companies such as Panasonic, Canon and Nikon closed their production lines in northeastern Japan. However, as many if not most consumer cameras are actually manufactured in China, or Taiwan — and even some components such as CCDs are made in Thailand — the short-term impact on the mainstream camera business may be minimal.

Digitimes reports Japan-based CCD suppliers indicate no immediate shortage in supply, according to Taiwanese camera makers such as Altek and Ability which use Japanese-sourced CCDs and other components.

Long-term effects are unknown. Digitimes’ research division says Sony, Panasonic and Sharp account for more than 90 percent of the global production of CCD image sensors. “While the three companies’ CCD image sensor factories are not located in the earthquake-devastated region, reduced power supply due to Japan government’s brownout measure may impact their production. The three companies are main suppliers for Taiwan-based DSC makers, who may see short supply of CCD image sensors.”

Adorama has more information here, with a run-down of many effected companies.




Samsung presents “ultra-mobile” Galaxy Player

Samsung Electronics says the 4- and 5-inch screens on its two new Galaxy Player models “offer an ideal way to enjoy games, music, videos, social media and e-books — yet still easily fit in a pants pocket.”

The Players feature a front VGA camera for videoconferencing, and a rear 3 megapixel sensor for photography. They also have WiFi, stereo speakers, and weigh 5 and 7 ounces respectively.

The Android-based ultra-mobile devices come with the Qik application, and “video-conferencing is a joy through the front-acing camera on the devices, and the large 4- and 5-inch screens provide for a crystal-clear view of the other side of the conversation,” the company says.

Pricing was not announced.




Google acquire Green Parrot Pictures to boost video quality on YouTube.

Google acquired six-year-old Irish startup Green Parrot Pictures, a developer of video stabilization and enhancement tools.

YouTube, Google’s video service,  says it now “sees 35 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute from people all over the world,” and while “some videos are beautifully shot by professionals or aspiring filmmakers using the very latest in HD cameras and equipment,” others are “shot using low-quality mobile phones and video cameras.”

The Green Parrot technology can sharpen images, reduce visual noise, and render higher-quality, steadier video, Google says. The “cutting-edge video quality improvement technology has been used in major studio productions from Lord of the Rings to X-Men to Spider-Man. Their technology helps make videos look better while at the same time using less bandwidth and improving playback speed.”

Examples are here.





Mirror, mirror: Total Immersion adds AR to iPad 2

Apple added cameras to the iPad, and Total Immersion is taking advantage of them with “AR Magic Mirror,” billed as a “playful” augmented reality application.

You can see yourself with “a selection of wacky virtual hairstyles, glasses and accessories to try on.,” the company says.

The app uses facial recognition to identify the user and apply virtual 3D enhancements to their video image in real time through augmented reality functionality.

“AR Magic Mirror” is a free application.

“This second generation iPad will be a key enabler to what we will soon see in a massive range of powerful augmented reality applications” Total Immersion says.

More information is here.





Synthcam adds “tilt shift” effect

Synthcam v2 now offers multi-point focusing and tilted focal planes, which lets you align the focal plane with any collection of objects in the scene — and to simulate a tilt-shift lens, generating the popular “tiny toy” look where real cars and buildings look like miniature models.

Also, new prediction and detection algorithms make tracking more robust, while the accelerometer corrects pitching and rolling.

SynthCam is the creation of Stanford professor Marc Levoy. The iPhone camera app emulates adjustable aperture to produced a shallow depth of field, blurring the scene behind and around the photo’s subject. SynthCam captures and combines multiple shots into a single image.

The app costs 99 cents from Apple’s online App Store.

More information is here.

An online video of Levoy’s presentation on computational photography at our 6Sight Future of Imaging conference is here.




Google showcases Street View

Google updated its Street View site with “highlights from around the world in a gallery that lets you see ski slopes, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and breathtaking places on all seven continents,” the company says.

The Street View feature on Google Maps features close-up views of streets, buildings, cars and people across the globe, and, Google says, “we’ve been able to visit some beautiful and historic places around the world.”

The company adds that while it photographs most places with its camera-equipped Street View vehicles, “plenty of unique and interesting locations around the world aren’t accessible by car. To help us visit places with smaller paths or unpaved terrain, we’ve developed the Trike, Snowmobile and Trolley, which have enabled us to share parks, ski trails, and even museums with you in Street View.





Adobe iPhone app reduces image noise

“Even the best phone cameras can introduce small amounts of grain and speckling into images,” says Adobe Systems. “The Reduce Noise feature quickly smoothes out those flaws to improve your photos.”

The noise reduction is a paid option in Adobe’s otherwise free Photoshop Express 2.0 for iOS devices. The  $4 “Camera Pack” is Adobe’s first “in-app” purchasable product.  “The Reduce Noise feature puts professional Adobe Photoshop quality in the palm of your hand,” the company claims.

Initially just a simple image adjustment and uploading tool, Photoshop Express added camera control functions to take pictures in v1.5 of the app — and now features a timer option, so “you can be in the picture too,” the company says. Also new is an Auto Review, “to make sure you get a good shot and delete it if you don’t. Auto Review gives you a quick look at your picture before the action passes you by.”

Adobe says its Photoshop Express “has been a leader in the Apple iTunes Store’s photography category… for the past 17 months.”

More information is here.






Nokia shoots and tags

“Fed up of making movies on your phone and forgetting where the good bits were?” asks Nokia. It’s new tool can let you “jump to the right scenes in an instant.”

Nokia’s Beta Labs is offering Shoot and Tag, a Symbian phone app it says creates “a simple way of navigating to the correct place in a video with just one click.”

The app tags changes — new scenes, objects, or people, for example — in a video as it is recorded. During playback or editing, it is then easy to jump to moments of interest by selecting the tags.

“We think Shoot and Tag is a nice little app that does a good job at capturing scene changes,” the company says. “However, anything from Beta Labs is experimental and is in no way a final product.”

More information is here.






Navigational augmented reality on an iPad

Hunter Research and Technology’s Theodolite HD lets iPad 2 users take geo-stamped and geo-tagged images, and has “a fast photography engine with buffered background image saves,” the company says.

Just how much data can you overlay atop an image anyhow?

Theodolite HD is a viewfinder-based compass, GPS, map, zoom camera, rangefinder, and two-axis inclinometer. It overlays real-time information about position, altitude, bearing, range, and horizontal/vertical inclination on the iPad’s live camera image, “turning iPad 2 into a sophisticated electronic viewfinder,” the company says.

The software’s “fusion” algorithm combines gyro and magnetometer data to provide a more accurate, more responsive, and more robust compass measurement, the company says. “Theodolite is able to provide stable compass bearing to any landmarks visible in the camera viewfinder, regardless of how the user holds or points the device. This provides a significant increase in utility over traditional palm held compasses and compass apps.”

Theodolite is used in the field by surveyors, geologists, architects, engineers, military personnel, competitive sportsmen, and search and rescue workers.

Other features include a zero reference angle mode, an A-B calculator for height, distance, heading, position, triangulation, and relative angles, a built-in map with standard, satellite, and hybrid views, two mil-based rangefinders, colored lens filters to improve use in dark conditions and preserve night vision, percent grade display, optical rangefinders, military grid reference system (MGRS) coordinates, universal transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates, and four latitude/longitude formats.

Theodolite HD 2.4 is $4.

More information is here.





Animoto produces partner platform

Online video service Animoto developed a Partner Platform that enables third parties to include the service within their own environments “to allow their customers to easily create pro-quality video slideshows from photos and videos,” the company says, with which to “increase customer engagement, offer an added-value consumer experience, and create incremental revenue streams.”

Animoto reports Kodak Gallery, AG Interactive, and have signed on as partners. Its service is already integrated into such websites as Pepsi, Four Seasons, Bon Jovi, and SmugMug, the company says, but the new Partner Platform moves the service “within the walls of partner websites instead of requiring a click-through to Animoto.”

More information is here.




Boinx updates You Gotta See This

Boinx Software updated its “panography” photo app originally designed for the iPhone 4 to the iPad 2, and lets users “capture their surroundings in an arbitrary, 3D fashion for eye-catching results.”

The new version
of “You Gotta See This!” provides an option to use either of the iPad’s two cameras, and gyroscope technology determines the camera orientation for recording and positioning each captured image on a flat surface “to create dreamlike spatial collages.”

The $2 software works on the iPhone, iPod touch 4G, and iPad2.




PixelOptics empowers eyewear

“emPower represents the most significant technological advance in prescription eyewear in the last 50 years,” claims developer PixelOptics, and “marks a turning point in the evolution of vision technology.”

The electronically-focusing prescription eyewear will be commercially available in the US in May.

The electronic corrective eyeglasses combine composite lenses with a thin transparent  liquid crystal layer. They have the same weight, feel and look of  regular eyewear, the company says. The microchip, micro-accelerometers, and miniature batteries are hidden inside the temples of the eyeglass frames.  The transparent liquid crystal layer in each lens is able to electronically change and activate the near focus lens only when needed, with no moving parts and without making a sound.  This allows for seeing clearly at all distances; far, near and in between. Wearers can operate the glasses in three different modes: manual on, automatic, and manual off.   One charge of the battery allows for two to three days of operation.

In 2006, the company first announced it would ship the glasses in two years. In January 2010 it announced a partnership with Panasonic.

Beginning in May 2011, in a partnership with Aspex Eyewear and Panasonic Healthcare Co., LTD, the emPower! eyeglasses will be available in the Southeastern U.S., and then will be rolled out across the country by the end of 2011.  Panasonic will manufacture the electronic lens blanks, leveraging its expertise in LCD technology.  The electronic frames are produced by Aspex Eyewear, and come in 12 styles and multiple color options, for 36 different electronic frames to choose from.

PixelOptics is headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia.


Blurb updates photo book creation tool

Online photo book service Blurb adds two most-requested features to its BookSmart v3 software: a two-page photo spread and a way to change the size of an existing photo book.

The free bookmaking software for Mac and PC “takes the guesswork out of creating this popular page layout by offering a ready-to-use template that supports two-page spreads with full bleed,” the company says.  When bookmakers drag a photo onto the page spread it will automatically fill up both pages, right to the edges – no manual adjustment necessary.

The “change book size” function allows customers who have created a book in one size format to “easily transpose that book into another size with just a few clicks. In minutes you can copy the full contents of an existing book into a new book with a smaller (or larger) size. The original version is automatically saved.”


Microsoft develops real-time searchable video recognition

Microsoft’s Innovation Labs says its “unique combination of new face detection, recognition and tracking algorithms… creates new opportunities in authentication, natural user interface, search, content management and video editing.”

The OneVision Video Recognizer algorithm performs face detection on a running video feed, recognizing and tracking people while moving.

The recognizer detects faces throughout the video and assigns a unique ID to all the sequences that feature the same person, Microsoft says. The face recognizer automatically identifies the tagged people at any point in the video, even if more than one person is in the frame, scenes have changed, or people are not directly facing the camera.

More information is here.