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AI takes smartphone pics to new pro levels

AI has been making its presence felt in almost every area of our lives and is now also taking the lead role in our smartphone cameras, writes AKHRAM MOHAMED, Marketing Director of Huawei in South Africa.

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While our previous demands of our mobile cameras focused mainly on the number of megapixels and variety of filters, AI is now starting a true revolution in smartphone camera technology.

Thanks to AI, it is no longer necessary to have to enhance our photos after the fact. AI is now taking the role of photographer, making adjustments and predictions as the photos are taken in real time. This means that anyone with an advanced AI smartphone camera can become a pro photographer – no training, skills, or expensive equipment required.

The intuition of AI

AI-powered cameras like the Huawei P20 series intelligently assist users to take great photos by automatically optimising the camera settings on the backend. By learning about users’ behaviours and giving them what they want before they ask for it, the AI powering the devices is becoming increasingly sophisticated. With its enhanced object recognition capabilities, the AI smartphone can automatically determine the shooting modes and parameter settings for different scenes, and learn users’ photo-taking habits in order to deliver a more professional imaging effect. The more photos that are taken, the better the camera can interpret complicated environments.

The Huawei P20 and Huawei P20 Pro’s AI-powered real-time scene and object recognition technology can recognise more than 500 scenarios in 19 18 categories for users to choose the right skills at the right moment, such as the beach, food, or people. Once an object or a scene is identified, the smartphone automatically makes adjustments – from focus to contrast, to brightness, to colour – to produce the best possible results, regardless of the actual conditions you are presented with. The camera changes settings as it takes photos based on the information it is given; you do not have to browse through menus and select the settings you want.

For example, if a user is shooting at the beach, the AI-powered camera can identify objects and intelligently adjust for the best lighting, so the output looks good regardless of lighting conditions. Also, when the AI camera registers an attempt to take a group photo or a picture of the skyline, the AI Assisted Composition feature automatically draws a grid for the convenience of the user.

This AI-powered camera is capable of suggesting optimal parameters based on data gathered in the scene. Using machine learning, the devices also understand the photography habits of users over time, making suggestions based on various actions. AI also brings intelligent behaviour prediction, including intelligent context awareness and intelligent resource allocation.

4D Predictive Focus, breathtaking night shots and selfie evolution

One of the situations that has been the bane of photographers’ careers for decades now is night shots or low-light conditions. Because these scenarios usually require long exposure, these photos often come our out blurry, especially if they are taken with cellphones. AI image stabilisation technology, which is featured in the P20 devices, can eliminate these shaky shots and enable steady handheld night shots for incredible long exposure images. No tripod required!

4D predictive focus is another useful AI smartphone feature. In this mode, the camera predicts moving objects and focuses on them with extreme efficiency in order to capture minute details of objects in motion and eliminate blurred action shots. For the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, the laser sensor provides instant focus with an effective range of three meters.

AI can also take the good old selfie to a whole new level with AI beautification. AI beautification provides 3D portrait lighting, making adjustments to better match the users’ facial features, resulting in luminous skin-tone enhancements and radiant selfies, even when backlit. These features are enhanced by the Huawei P20’s 24MP front camera,  which captures the smallest details, even in low-light settings, bringing to life selfies with natural skin tone enhancements, delicately outlined face shapes, and 3D facial feature adjustments.

Other notable features of the Huawei P20 Pro include:

·         The world’s first Leica triple camera, comprised of a 40MP RGB sensor, a 20MP monochrome sensor, and an 8MP sensor with telephoto lens. This results in images with more light, intricate detail, and greater zoom

·         f/1.8, f/1.6 and f/2.4 wide aperture Leica lenses. The size of the aperture regulates how much light goes into the image sensor. The wider the aperture, the more light strikes the sensor, and therefore, the brighter and clearer the image – even in low-light environments.

·         A brand new Leica 3x telephoto (VARIO-SUMMILUX-H 1:1.6-2.4/27-80ASPH) lens for long-range photography of up to 5x Hybrid Zoom.

·         A revolutionary and highly-sensitive image sensor of 1/1.7 inches, 170 percent larger than the iPhone X, with a pixel size of 2 μm micrometers – 2.68 times higher than the iPhone X’s 1.22 μm

·         Ultra Snapshot – devices can capture an image in as little as 0.3 seconds, even from a locked screen.

·         Six-axis stabilisation and 960fps super slow motion, which is 4x higher than the standard 240fps and captures details that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

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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.

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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:

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

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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.

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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.

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