As a guiding light of the digital imaging industry, CEA’s Digital Imaging division is an exciting venue for companies from all aspects of the category to converge.
Looking back over this decade, we saw the category we represent explode almost overnight. From that initial boom came new business opportunities in segments like printing, hardware, photofinishing services—you name it. Companies and individuals have taken the opportunity, at each passing turn, to develop new products or launch fresh services. We are an innovative group. There are several breakthrough technologies in imaging changing the game right now, but I say the biggest opportunity in digital imaging is almost upon us. It will reinvent digital imaging with entirely new business opportunities, the likes of which we could never think possible. The next wave in digital imaging is JPEG-XR.
JPEG-XR, which stands for a new eXpanded Range image file format, has been years in the making. It is much more evolved than the JPEG format we rely on today. It will lift the technical restrictions of standard JPEG, allowing it to offer quality and features previously unimaginable in an easy market wide format. This isn’t some glimpse into the future or a fantasy scenario, it is real and it is here. In fact, the JPEG-XR format is within months of complete standardization and public release. As it gains momentum this winter, it should have a voice by the 2010 International CES, with products shipping for the 2010 holiday season. So far a few camera companies are embracing this format as the future of digital imaging.
JPEG-XR has features that are marketable and will create opportunities for manufacturers, service providers and retailers. So how will it deliver?
Drastically Improved Image Qualilty
While today’s imaging devices continue to offer more and more megapixels, the limitations of the JPEG format are bringing us close to a point of diminishing returns for most consumer applications. What good is all that extra resolution if saving the image to a digital file is the weakest link in the chain? The XR format will remove the current restrictions, allowing consumer cameras—even at medium resolutions—to capture more detail and with a dramatically expanded gamut range.
Much of the quality of today’s digital images have been lost in translation, so to speak, in the JPEG file format. For example, the "old" JPEG can’t capture the bright highlights and dark shadows in wide dynamic range scenes. A camera using JPEG-XR, on the other hand, can capture a person standing in front of window without creating shadowed face or overexposed background. JPEG-XR allows users to capture and output images closer to what our eyes see. Although high-dynamic-range shots are possible on today’s DSLRs using pro techniques and a lossless image format, the process is too wieldy for most consumers to master. JPEG-XR will consolidate the need for multiple image formats, simplifying professional imaging controls to a mere snap of a point-and-shoot shutter, yet still allow after-image controls a master would want.
While not a sexy selling point to consumers out of the gate, many players in the imaging space will recognize JPEG-XR’s super-efficient CODEC as a true game changer. For starters, users can crop, resize or tweak images without the need to uncompress then re-compress it. This means faster edits and no loss to image quality. Even more exciting, the new format promises an up to 30 percent smaller file than JPEG while delivering nearly twice as much data. JPEG-XR will not only allow cameras to capture new images in a smaller package, but will also allow for conversion of existing images for a nearly one-third smaller photo library. Anyone creating or selling storage solutions, including companies in the Internet storage arena, will see all kinds of new opportunities here. And I’m sure you will find opportunities too. This marriage of high resolution and high capture with smaller storage requirements is, well, huge!
Exciting Social Media Features
JPEG-XR was designed for the future and incorporates features that are natural extensions for the Web world: social networking and cloud computing. With standard JPEG, socially connecting pictures is a share-and-search concept. In other words, users must search out photos that other users have shared. Likewise, they must jump through more hoops to connect photos with friends or family to manually create the greater story the collection of photos tells. JPEG-XR enables content creators to automatically assemble these stories based on social networks, geotags and even facial recognition.
Another exciting feature is the ability to group random photos from random users together based on location to paint a larger picture. With JPEG-XR, applications can use smart geotags to create meta-images—a string of images taken within an area or period of time—to create a multi-dimensional view of a place or event. Users can find images by relating or associating them to other images. This is just one more example of how JPEG-XR will take imaging to an entirely new place. We’re going to see digital imaging evolve into a viral, virtual imaging world.
I’ve presented just a few of JPEG-XR’s new features, and there are still quite a few others. A holiday season from now, we’ll just begin to see the new format infiltrating and forever changing the imaging category as we know it. It should rocket our industry to the next level. Even just the ability to transfer existing images to JPEG-XR will be earth shattering.
Rick Glomb is Chair, CEA Digital Imaging Division.