The Next Big Thing(s)

The Next Big Thing(s)

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You may remember my first column last spring when I wrote about my conversation with Jimmy Chung, president of the International Photographic Council and former Fujifilm executive. He asked me what is the next big thing in photography, and I responded that it was “Creativity.”

This year he asked me once again: “What's next?” But this time, he told me the answer: “3D.”

“Not so fast,” I said. “It's my question, I need some time to respond.” I am sure he knew I was just stalling for time. Ever since we presented Bonny Lhotka, the leading 3D photo artist; Lenny Lipton, the leading 3D film scientist; Russell Brown, 3D software designer from Adobe; and Rick Dean, 3D@Home standards setter, I was convinced that 3D photography would be a big part of what we will see introduced in the near future. Sure enough, that has already begun to occur in 2010 with many new 3D introductions.

New Dimensions

3D certainly fits well with my response from 2009, because nothing is more creative than having a whole new dimension to photograph. Suddenly we can create images that have real depth of field—and what's more, we can actually see it on prints and a wide range of displays coming soon to your living room. This year we are seeing new 3D printers and display screens, and we anticipate more 3D capture devices—because the one introduced and presented at 6Sight by Fujifilm last year has been successful.

However, there are so many exciting new technologies coming on just now, it is difficult to limit my response to just one. When photography moved from film to digital, the speed of innovation got faster and faster with each passing year. This speed of innovation means that all of us have more tools at our fingertips and more options to consider for capturing, managing and sharing our photographs.

At the 2010 6Sight Future of Imaging conference, we are again covering 3D, of course, and looking at where it is likely to go in the next few years. What will the new 3D technology, infrastructure and ecosystem offer companies in the imaging business? They can provide a whole new set of opportunities. 3D provides more incentive for homes to add 3D-enabled big screens that display still and video images from digital cameras. How will this benefit photography? What part does 2D-to-3D conversion software play for bringing legacy images into today's imaging environment? How can companies capitalize on this emergence of 3D?

Interactive Reality

In addition, we will introduce Augmented Reality to our attendees. Like nothing else before it, Augmented Reality combines a camera phone, display, connectivity and Internet information to overlay data and images on to the real world. Augmented Reality applications are quickly gaining momentum on the iPhone and are appearing on other camera phones like Android models as well—but will they be incorporated into digital cameras? If so, what opportunities will that open up? The opportunities surrounding geo-tagging will be included as well.

We will discuss the latest camera features and the upcoming technology and trends. The innovations professionals, consumers and prosumers will soon find in cameras are the topics of “The State of Cameras” overview. How will this change the services the industry provides to users related to computational photography, advancements in on-board software and applications, and wireless functionality? Will we soon see an end to the Lonely Camera that is unconnected to the Internet? Is there room for a mid-range camera that sits above the consumer level of commodity cameras and below the DSLR?

New Input on Output

What about printing? For the first time, we will hold an AIE Output Summit the day before 6Sight to address this business. It will examine the many new products and services that will impact photographic printing, and markets that did not exist until very recently—consumers and businesses using digital output for home décor, marketing materials, storytelling and much more. It is time for us to look at printing innovations like using new inks and advanced user interfaces for online printing of items such as photobooks and postcards that will improve the quality of the final consumer product, and thus drive usage.

Video is being integrated into “still” cameras more each year. How will more video capture devices, tools, services and displays impact consumers and the imaging industry? We will concentrate on the different ways people are using video, including social media sites. Considerations will include better capture; easier, faster sharing; video communication; new consumer and business uses of video; and possible business models that actually generate revenue. Can we at last monetize video capture? Will surveillance video have the drastic societal impact that many believe (and fear) it will cause?

Camera phones have exponentially increased digital photography. Smarter camera phones' always-on connectivity, open OS and application stores overcome their sub-par imaging features. Will these popular camera phone features impact the development plans for standard cameras and advance the development of Web-connected models? The ever-popular “State of the Camera Phone” overview will set the stage for panel discussions of how cam phones are being used in new and innovative ways.

Myriad Things

With such a wide view of the imaging ecosystem, how can I possibly answer Jimmy Chung's question: “What will be the next big thing?” But answer it I must. So Jimmy, here goes. As you suggested, 3D will be the next big thing in photography for the foreseeable future. It is the one thing that expands image capture into a new set of devices and offers revenue opportunities from printing both on the consumer and professional level. It is certainly the next big thing from a monetary perspective. Since Playboy magazine now has a 3D centerfold, can Modern Bride be far behind? If this happens, brides-to-be across the country will be demanding 3D wedding shots.

Plus, I am personally looking forward to having the ability to capture images with true depth of field. For example, on Mother's Day I drove my wife down the Pacific Coast to Big Sur to see the wildflower display. As we were heading up one of the hills, I noticed how wisps of fog hung between me and the mountain side. I longed to capture that in 3D and create a feel of its depth on a print. To achieve that, yes, I would purchase a new camera, and pay extra to have my photos printed in 3D.

So, yes, Jimmy, the next big thing may be 3D—but there are so many more and exciting big things to be considered as well. I hope to see you at 6Sight in San Jose on November 15-17 so we can explore them together.

Joe Byrd is co-Founder and President of 6Sight Conferences.

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