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Image capture changing the world

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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.

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro matches camera benchmark record

A benchmark by DxOMark sees the triple-cam handset tie with the P20 Pro for best smartphone camera on the market.

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The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has come out top in a camera benchmark test that assesses all aspects of smartphone camera performance.

DxOMark, which conducts rigorous hardware testing and is trusted as an industry standard for image quality measurements, has just released the results of its in-depth analysis of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone camera. 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest top-end device. Building on the P20 Pro’s camera technology, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a Leica-branded triple-camera setup, but swaps its stable-mate’s monochrome camera for a super-wide-angle module, offering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range from 16 to 80mm—the widest of all current smartphone cameras.

The handset is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone XS Max, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, among other. How does it fare?

“With a total photo score of 114, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro ties the record-setting score of its cousin, the P20 Pro,” says DxOMark. “The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.”

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro achieves a photo score of 114 points. In stills mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s triple camera captures images with good target exposure and a wide dynamic range, recording both good highlight and shadow detail even in difficult high-contrast situations. Noise levels are well under control down to low light levels, and the camera’s white balance system and colour rendering settings produce a pleasant colour response in almost all circumstances.

At 97 points, the Mate 20 Pro is very close to the best for video as well, thanks to a fast and smooth autofocus system with good tracking performance, accurate white balance as well as pleasant colour rendering, and low levels of noise, especially in bright shooting conditions. Our testers also liked the exposure system’s ability to adapt quickly and smoothly to changes in illumination.

It was not all good news. DxOMark also had some criticism for the device.

Click here to read about the drawbacks of the Mate 20 Pro camera, and other positives.

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SA car wins
Dakar Rally

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The final stage of Dakar 2019 drew to a close at the bivouac in Pisco, Peru, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel bring home their South African-built Toyota Hilux for an historic victory. Not only was it a first win for Toyota, but it was also the first petrol-powered car to win the Dakar in the South-American era.

The Qatari driver ensured his French navigator, who turned 43 years old on Thursday, 17 January, received a great birthday present, when the pair arrived at the final time control of Dakar 2019 with teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in close formation. The two Toyota Hilux crews completed the entire stage together, as De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz waited nearly 55 minutes for the leaders to start the stage, in order to shadow them to the finish.

The emotions bubbled over for Team Principal Glyn Hall, who found himself without words as his two crews drove into the media area after the time control. “This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed, before being swamped in a sea of well-wishers.

The winning driver, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA led Dakar 2019 from the first to the last stage, with Al Attiyah/Baumel drawing first blood, before handing the mantle to De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz during stage 2. But then a disastrous Stage 3 saw the Qatari retake the lead – a lead he didn’t relinquish despite some of the toughest stages yet seen on any South-American Dakar.

“When we first heard that the rally was going to take place only in one country, we were skeptical,” said Hall after regaining composure. “But the organisers made sure that this year’s race will long be remembered as one of the toughest tests in the last decade.”

Al Attiyah / Baumel’s victory at Dakar 2019 means that Toyota Gazoo Racing has now won both of the world’s toughest automotive races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the DakarRally.

Click here to read Glyn Hall’s comment on winning the Dakar Rally, as well as the rankings.

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