TechFest 2010: Next generation Image Composite Editor with Multi-Image Fusion technologies

Last week we presented you with one of TechFest 2010’s new research projects: OneAlbum. Today we’ll introduce you to another piece of new technology from Microsoft Research labs – Image Composite Editor (ICE) with Multi-Image Fusion. To some of you who had been reading the Digital Memories Experience (DMX) team blog (the team who created Windows Live Photo Gallery and Movie Maker), ICE is probably not new to you, as the research team who developed the photo stitching technology behind Photo Gallery also developed ICE. In the current version of ICE, it provides advanced features for panoramic stitching such as choosing the stitch’s orientation, custom projection, and selecting a 360 stitch’s mid-point, and this tool also integrates nicely as a plug-in into Windows Live Photo Gallery. Here we’ll show you some of the upcoming new features in ICE:

  • Structured Panoramas – very quickly create a preview of a panorama from hundreds of images by leveraging the thumbnail cache in Windows Vista/7. ICE can provide a near instantaneous preview of some of the largest stitching projects. The screenshot below shows a 300-image panorama preview shown in 3 seconds:
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  • Stitching Panoramas from Video – this is an exciting technology which allow users to create panoramas from a video clip instead of using still images. Traditionally, for panorama stitching to be successful, users had to make sure that the photos overlap and are sharp enough for stitching purposes. With video stitching, ICE’s algorithm will analyse the video clip, automatically detect if there is a panorama and stitch the result using the ‘best frames’ it selects, here’s a diagram demonstrating how it works:

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  • Sharp Panoramas from Blurry Videos – Although ICE supports panorama stitching from videos, oftentimes users will find that videos are of lower quality and blurry due to panning actions. ICE takes this into account and does its magic using joint global motion estimation and multi-frame deblurring to sharpen the image. Here’s an example of it in action:
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  • Creating Photographs from Videos – ICE also supports creation of a single high quality still image from a fast video sequence that “preserve salient and interesting objects in the video and uses the best aspects of the video”. It is useful in fast motion shots where sometimes only a video camera may capture the event as it is too fast for your still camera’s shutter. Using ICE, you can create a special effect image like the example below:

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  • Multi-Image Denoising and Sharpening using Lucky Imaging – When you’re taking photos or videos of a distant object, oftentimes you’ll find that the object in the photo you’re trying to capture might be covered with atmospheric haze or even unnoticeable dust on the camera lens. Using “Lucky Imaging” – a technique used by astronomers when capture images of distant stars, ICE will dehaze the image, adjust the contrast, remove the noise and dust artefacts, and sharpen the image to restore what the object should look like. Here’s the resulting image, it’s quite impressive:

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Besides the abovementioned new imaging technologies, ICE also integrates nicely with Photosynth, allowing panoramas to be shared on the web in their full native resolution. ICE users will be able to leverage all Photosynth features including geo-tagging with Bing Maps. One question we’ve always wondered though, why is ICE not integrated into Windows Live Photo Gallery?

Thanks Picturepan2 from LiveSino.net for the heads up!