Image capture and related technology is speeding up and changing the world of communication. To keep up, the entire ecosystem around visual technology is having to evolve – not least of all in terms of storage and device processing power, writes HITENDRA NAIK of Intel.
Image capture and related technology is speeding up exponentially, and changing the world of communication and creativity as we know it. It’s estimated that globally more pictures were taken every two minutes of 2012 than ALL of the photographs taken in the entire 19th century. Last year we snapped an estimated trillion photos – in a single year! And by 2017, Infotrends estimates that 78.8% (or just over three-quarters) of all photos will be taken using our phones. If the 20th century saw an explosion of text-based information, the start of this new century will be defined by two things – data and visual communication. The entire ecosystem around visual technology is having to evolve – not least of all in terms of storage and device processing power. And that’s just a drop in the ocean of what’s to come – 360 degree photography, augmented reality, and more…
The evolution of photography
Photography has come a long way since the days of film cameras. The expense of buying and developing film meant we had to put a lot more thought into capturing the perfect shot. Once exposed, the film was used – a finite creative resource. And then, after a long wait to get photos developed by a third party service provider, we’d carefully arrange the best shots in albums to be looked at over and over again. There was no preview for shots as you take them, no secure process for developing them that kept them private, and no fail-proof back-up solution either.
Today, technology has solved all of those problems, and put a camera in the hand of every person with a smartphone. Not only are the photographic devices generally cheaper and easier to use, they’re smaller or built into phones, making them inherently portable. Furthermore, in the past our photos were for our use, not a way to curate communities and share emotion as they are now. The ubiquity of images – not just our own, but an entire internet full of images – has created a new way of communicating.
The birth of digital photography
In the 1970s the world’s first digital cameras were invented. The potential use for these was clear, but it would take almost three decades for these to start going mainstream in the consumer market. It was the birth of personal computing and the internet in the 90s that drove adoption. As people became more technically savvy and connected, so their need and desire to capture, store, sort and share images digitally increased. It sparked a wave of innovation – image quality improved, and cameras and sensors shrunk. The next step was the camera phone – which first appeared in the market in 2000 – and arguably launched the next wave of exponential change. Today, digital photography is virtually instantaneous. Don’t like that picture? Review it, delete it, and retake it.
Evolution drives a revolution
This revolution in thinking about photography – as ubiquitous, instant, changeable and sharable – means that photos are now as much about recording our everyday moments and communicating with others online, as they are about preserving memories. Furthermore, mobile technology, including smartphones, tablets and tiny video recorders, have put advanced photography tools into the hands of just about everyone. Everywhere we go, people are taking photos – of their food, of a book they want to read, of themselves. Our digital albums have become extensions of our brains, holding not just memories but also functioning as repositories of information and knowledge. And image search puts this world of visual stories at our fingertips, to use, transform and replicate.
The role of technology
Did you know an estimated 70 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every day? Facebook users upload 300 million photos a day, and a whopping 8 796 photos are shared on SnapChat every single second. This is only possible because of the processing power of today’s mobile devices, as well as exponentially improved categorisation and search capabilities. In less than 20 years we’ve gone from the first camera phone featuring a miniscule 176×208 pixel colour display, to “budget” devices with 10MP cameras and HD displays. Today’s top devices frequently offer two cameras, at 16MP quality or higher. It’s no wonder we can’t stop snapping. And, as discussed, it’s not just about capturing the world around us: Photography has enabled a new kind of instant visual communication that we create, reference, remix and reuse (like memes) to convey emotions and experiences – a visual narrative tool.
Rethinking storage and linkages
The result is that most people have thousands of images dispersed across multiple devices and no real organisation or filing system – until we bring the PC into the mix. With more storage space, faster processing power and enhanced graphics, the PC is the one place where all our images can be stored and organised into albums, catalogued by search engines, easily edited and remixed, and uploaded to social media or cloud storage.
Moving image storage to the cloud has become a game changer for photography. No longer are our precious images locked in physical storage, such as a box of unsorted images in the back of a cupboard. Cloud storage can enable easy sharing, often has built-in backup options, and is inherently searchable – which again links to the transformation of photography from something of image capture to an element of communication.
This is demonstrated in the power of visual memes and gifs that convey emotions and responses. Today, you’re as likely to see someone share an image linked to an emotion as you are to see them respond in text. I believe that this is fundamentally related to the explosion of uptake of emojis (and before that emoticons). The power of the visual image now lies in its instant recognition factor – the thing that makes you immediately identify with the emotion being conveyed.
The future of photography
We’re proud that Intel’s innovations have enabled every one of these touch points, and helped transform photography over the ages. The next generation of photography devices and software will demand even more processing and storage capacity, as images continue to get bigger and more detailed, and as new ways of capturing photos come on to the mainstream market.
360 degree photography is one such innovative method, creating immersive, experiential images and videos – but these come with huge file sizes and require market-leading processing speeds to edit (and even, to a lesser degree, to experience). Augmented reality is also rewriting the script on photography, using still images to layer on top of the “real world” or image recognition to provide information about the buildings, streets, signs, and art right in front of you. Not only can we layer on information, we can now refocus and transform already taken images. Yes, the power of something like Intel’s RealSense Depth Enabled Photography (DEP) means you can even shift focal points after you press the shutter button.
In combining these types of image capture and image analysis tools, and incorporating them into devices, not only will your smart glasses (as one example) talk you through what you’re seeing, they could be used to capture images – for a “my view of the world” perspective, promoting narrative style photography. Imagine the power of these next frontier photographic stories for embedded journalists, NGOs, and even tourism! The next layer (driven by image capture and processing) is this powerful form of visual communication, and with that, visual recognition – transforming communication platforms like social media, analytics, machine learning, and even artificial intelligence. The future looks bright. Capture it.
* Hitendra Naik, director of innovation, Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Intel.
Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon
On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.
Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.
“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.
Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion. In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.
A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.
David Noton advises:
- Download the right apps to be in-the-know
The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky. Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.
- Invest in a lens with optimal zoom
On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.
- Use a tripod to capture the intimate details
As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.
- Integrate the moon into your landscape
Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.
- Master the shutter speed for your subject
The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability. By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.
On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!
How Africa can embrace AI
Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.
To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.
These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.
Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed
AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.
According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.
It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.
Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.
It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.
Combining STEM with the arts
Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.
As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.
For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.
“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.
Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.
Revisiting laws and regulation
For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.
Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.
Preparing for the future
With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.
To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.
It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.