When looking at new imaging technology, it stands to reason the best place to find the latest would be at the 6Sight Future of Imaging Conference. Their annual imaging industry event was held in San Jose, Calif., late last year and, as always, the three-day show presented some eye-popping future tech that, in one form or another, will help reshape this industry.
While we're not suggesting the following tidbits represent the only new tech that will make headlines in 2011, we do think most will lead the imaging industry in some new and exciting directions over the next 12 months…and beyond.
Here's a brief look at some of the emerging new companies and technologies that were on display at the conference, many of whom will be introducing product based on the technology they demo'd. We'll be taking a much more close-up look at these and other new technologies in a special “2011 New Imaging Tech” insert in our February issue you won't want to miss.
Remember the old Cracker Jack tilt cards? Well, they've come a long way, baby. As 3D technology continues grabbing headlines, we are starting to see some very interesting products and services pop up in this area. The most recent one to catch our eye is a very unique printing service for consumers that brings lenticular technology to the masses with some stunning results.
Tracer Imaging (www.tracer1.com), based in White Plains, N.Y., is now offering their TracerPix service that adds more than just a little life to the standard printed photo.
“Tracer Imaging is focused solely on marketing and manufacturing lenticular products. Since the launch in 2002 of our commercial lenticular 3D business (serving the advertising and marketing needs of major consumer brands), we have built a reputation for extending the boundaries of print media,” says Steven Spiro, CEO, Tracer. “We know lenticular inside and out and now. After years of research and development, we look forward to working with our customers to put the wonders of printed 3D photos and video literally into the hands of consumers.”
Spiro added that the company sees the technology in photo products beyond just prints mentioning posters, gift cards and even retail POP displays.
In explaining a bit about the technology and why they are able to achieve results that are not typically seen with lenticular printing, the company told us their patent-protected, high-speed robotic manufacturing process “perfectly aligns the lens to the photograph with a precise registration.” The specially prepared digital image contains data from one or more images and is placed in precise alignment under a plastic lens to create the special effect. We were extremely impressed with the result we got back.
Initially, the lenticular prints will be available in 3.5×5- and 5×7-inch sizes, priced at around $5 to $6.99 per print. The company claims a credit card size of 2 1/8 x3 1/8 will also be made available with sizes up to 12×12 also possible. In describing the effect, the TracerPix lenticular prints essentially can display 3D images with up to three images becoming visible, 45 frames of video or animation and a singe still image with a zoom effect that can zero in on a particular part of the picture simply by tilting the print back and forth. www.tracer1.com
InVisage has developed a new medium for photographic image capture that they claim may someday supersede silicon. Their QuantumFilm technology promises significantly greater light sensitivity than CMOS or CCD image sensors, with no added cost or manufacturing complications. The company's design manager, Michael Malone, introduced their new QuantumShutter that they claim will take care of the limitations when shooting moving objects with a camera phone.
“QuantumFilm gathers more light so you can either make a smaller image sensor for a less expensive cell phone camera, or you make a higher-resolution sensor for high-end digital cameras,” explained Malone. “We believe it's a huge step forward and that the market is huge as well.”
The company's CEO, Jesse Lee, added, “Our quantum film replaces the silicon used for image capture, but what we have really created here is a new semiconductor material. Our quantum film even looks like photographic film—an opaque black material that we deposit right on the top layer of our image chip.” Stay tuned on this one. www.invisageinc.com
Need for Print Speed
Memjet has developed what they are stating is the fastest inkjet printing technology ever invented. The company's CEO, David Clark, tells us their new print engine for commercial photo printing is ready to roll out this year. Their Memjet Photo Retail print engine is one component that features a stationary printhead that has over 70,000 jets, creating what they call a “waterfall” tech that is significantly faster at a higher quality with fewer moving parts.
They told us that users can expect a standard 4×6 print every two seconds. The printhead is fixed, so there is no time lost to the printhead moving back and forth or turning around. The printheads, the company explains, are designed to be manufactured inexpensively, so they are comparable in cost to the small printheads typically used in inkjet printing.
“As a result,” Clark says, “you get high-speed photo printing, low capital costs, and low operating costs. That's why we claim this is genuinely a breakthrough technology.” www.memjet.com
Out of the Darkness
Helping video cameras see in the dark is the central theme around Sweden-based Nocturnal Vision's latest tech. The company's business development manager, Michael Hoy, recently explained to us how the company uses research on nocturnal vision in insects to dramatically improve low-light videos and still photo capture. Hoy explained how spatiotemporal smoothing technology is behind making it possible for cameras cut through the darkness.
“We are talking about shooting video in situations that seem almost pitch black,” Hoy said. “We can offer an unbelievable amount of noise reduction and contrast enhancement at the same time.”
Full-screen interactive panoramic imaging is the vision of yet another Sweden-based company as Pre-View co-founder and CEO, Magnus Janson, discusses the 720-degree spherical image–—a new and easy way to share everyday situations using only a mobile phone.
“Capturing is done simply by swiping your device across the surroundings,” he said, “and exploring the spherical image is like being there yourself.”
We've seen these immersive images on the web in the travel and real estate spaces. By dragging the mouse along the image, you are treated to a 360-degree spherical look at a golf course or the inside of a house for sale. Pre-View is kicking this tech up a notch and promising its availability in smartphones very soon. Instead of, “Look where I am” it becomes “Look where we are.” www.pre-view.org
Whether through stills or video, consumers are ultimately attempting to tell some kind of story when they point their camera at the subject.
Raviteq develops applications for the creation, viewing and sharing of mobile multimedia, including photo, video, sound and music, but their real goal is to help the end user tell a more compelling story with this content.
“An image is like a story, and we want to help consumers become the storyteller, better express themselves and share their moments with others. Independent of the nature of the situation or scenery, an image or a piece of video always has something to say. It's informative and has a value to an audience,” explained company founder Pierre Elzouki. “Raviteq is providing consumers with the tools and resources for creating and sharing all those types of stories.”
Okay, this one may not be as dazzling on the tech side as much of the above, but we love simple, low-tech ideas too. Nations Photo Lab has introduced their solid wood Gallery Blocks that can be arranged with consumer images to create what we think are very cool three-dimensional pieces of art. “With special wood and laminated photographic paper, each Gallery Block looks as though it is literally floating above your choice of backgrounds,” explained company president, Ryan Millman.
What we are celebrating here is more about bringing new and unique output ideas to consumers than it is about a new high tech offering.
Mobile Image Helper
Eindhoven, Netherlands-based Silicon Hive's (www.siliconhive.com) HiveGo technology essentially promises to bring “unrivaled image and video capturing experience to smartphones.”
“The standard user experience package HiveUX 1.0 offers solutions for the photo-capture and video-recording challenges smartphone camera users face in many daily life situations,” explained the company's marketing director, Ingolf Held. “It includes powerful and effective apps such as face technologies (detection, tracking, recognition and beautification), advanced noise reduction and multi-axis video stabilization, including rolling shutter compensation and computational photography apps such as All-in-Focus and High-Dynamic-Range that bring immersive experiences when capturing images of the world in novel ways.”
All of the above should make for an interesting year in this category as, once again it appears, the only constant that remains is indeed change.