Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We are all photographers now!

On September 13 1996, during a formal reception at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba (Japan), Shin Ohno introduced Yoko and me to Tadaaki Tani and his wife Aoi. He wanted us to discuss the future of digital photography. Tadaaki-sensei was very skeptical about digital photography, on ground that semiconductors will never be able to achieve the quantum efficiency of AgX, and at the theoretical limit there is a difference of an order of magnitude (if my memory does not fool me too badly)

Shin-sensei suggested that according to a polemic pamphlet I had written, the popularization of Internet tools like email and the Web would subvert completely the media and therefore the performance metrics would change. Indeed, I pointed to the sticker photo booths all around Makuhari to postulate that the future key metric will be immediacy. What will be important for the amateur photographer, will not be the image quality but the ability to share an event remotely at the time it was occurring. And the rest is history

In January 2000, in collaboration with Raimondo Schettini I led a brainstorming meeting for the program committee members of the Internet Imaging conference at EI. The goal was to identify what set apart Internet imaging from other forms of imaging and what was the hardest problem. The answer to the first question was that it is about systems, and the answer to the second question was the lack of a benchmark for content based image retrieval (CBIR).

The latter led to the creation of the Benchathlon effort. Most of the work was done by the Viper Team at the University of Geneva, who had a lot of the required software tools, and by Neil Gunther, one of the foremost experts on performance analysis. My modest task was to provide a corpus of images and have them annotated in a collaborative effort, since I had talked about it in the past (HPL-97-162).

While the Viper team was able to leverage on their MRML technology to set up a platform at http://www.benchathlon.net/, and Neil was able to determine that the MPEG-7 metric for CBIR performance is flawed (see HPL-2000-162), my image corpus effort failed

The important point was to collect typical amateur photographs, which from an imaging point of view are very different from the normalized professional photographs often used at that time. Seven years have past, and today we are not much farther ahead than in 2000. The annotated amateur photo image corpus is still an unfulfilled desideratum. This is where We are all photographers now! at the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne comes into play, an art event in which HP is a co-sponsor

As you can see on the submission form, all images are annotated when they are submitted, and as you can read on the terms and conditions in article1 paragraph d, the corpus will be available for research. There are two ways for you to participate: contribute

  1. your images to the corpus and enjoy this art event
  2. use the corpus when it will be available for research

Now rush to http://www.allphotographersnow.ch/index.php to learn more.