Press Release

NASA technology helps weekend photographers look like pros

By SpaceRef Editor
August 21, 2001
Filed under ,

If a picture is worth a thousand words, new image-enhancement
technology jointly developed by NASA and industry will increase the
average photographer’s vocabulary many times over.

This new development will especially help weekend photographers,
who use the increasingly popular digital format. Digital images of
family, friends or one’s favorite hobby can be corrected for many
common problems with help from this award-winning technology.

The technology, called Retinex Imaging Processing, could be used to
enhance the billions of images captured each year by a growing
number low cost digital color cameras, color printers, and desktop
and internet publishing programs.

The process was originally developed for remote sensing of the
Earth by researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center and Science
and Technology Corp. (STC), both in Hampton, VA.

TruView Imaging Company, an affiliate of STC, has licensed the
technology from NASA and plans to market it in the form of a
software product for home, professional and industrial use by the
end of the year.

With it, amateur photographers, armed with nothing more than their
personal computers and a desire to get the most from the images
they capture, will have the ability to increase the brightness,
scene contrast, detail and overall sharpness of images with much
more ease than they can today.

What distinguishes this technology from existing image-enhancement
technologies is that it makes corrections automatically, yet allows
the end-user to manipulate the image as desired. As a result, the
average photographer is more likely to use the technology and use
it successfully.

It won’t correct every image, but was impressive enough to win a
NASA Space Act Award as one of the space agency’s top inventions of
the year for 1999.

“What makes Retinex technology so valuable is that every image can
stand a little improving, especially dark, low-contrast images,”
said Glenn Woodell of NASA Langley, one of three inventors of the
technology.

Dan Jobson, also of Langley and the technology’s principal
investigator, teamed with co-inventors Woodell and Zia-ur Rahman of
STC to modify the technology for commercial applications.

“STC thinks consumers will find this technology so easy and
gratifying to use that people who would never consider doing
anything more than snapping a picture will let Retinex finish the
job,” said Rahman.

The realistic beauty and visual impact of photographs can be
diminished, damaged or ruined by a variety of possible problems.
For example, colors and details can be lost or suppressed in
shadows or other low light level zones in a picture. These same
scenes, when viewed directly by the human observer, are vivid by
comparison to the recorded image. Consequently, the user loses both
the visual quality and emotional intensity of that captured memory.

“Existing image enhancement methods used to correct these
limitations are either insufficiently powerful or require tedious
and extensive manual user interactions,” said Marisol Garcia,
Langley’s Retinex commercialization project manager.

The technology is currently being refined for video image
enhancement, where the technology’s high-speed, automatic
correcting features should make quick work of an otherwise tedious
and extensive process.

For publication-quality still images, visit the World Wide Web at:

http://dragon.larc.nasa.gov/retinex/pao/news

SpaceRef staff editor.