This I would not have imagined...

The drone used to illuminate a scene taking into account movement of the photographer and of the subject. Credit: MIT

OK, drones are becoming the talk of the town in the last few months. I saw proposals to use drones to deliver parcels (Amazon) and proposals to use drones in an emergency situation (to deliver first aid kits or to survey a disaster area looking for survivors or people in danger) and drones to monitor traffic flow...

And yet, I have to say I was surprised reading this news where the idea is to use a drone as a flash for getting the best lighting in a photographic session!

Researchers at the MIT and Cornell University have created a drone that can sense the position of objects in a room and can position itself according to specific rules. They will demonstrate it at the International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualisation and Imaging to be held in Vancouver  August 8-10, 2014.

When you are taking a picture the light and the "direction" of light is crucial and it makes the difference between a good picture and an exceptional one. In studio photography flashes and illumination is carefully disposed to obtain the desired result. However, as the subject moves to take different position and the photographer moves to pick up different angles one needs to reconfigure the lighting...

This is where the drone invented at MIT and Cornell comes handy: sensors on the drone pick up the relative position of the model and of the photographer and a program calculate the exact position the drone should take to keep illumination constant (in intensity and direction) as the players change their relative position. Take a look at the clip.

What I find amazing is the amount of technology that gets squeezed into this system, the level of computation involved and the idea of applying all of this complexity to an area where you would not expect it may be worth the effort.

As a matter of fact, as I was looking with surprised eye at this news, I started to consider how much hidden and sophisticated technology we have all around us. The cell phone we carelessly use every day is an amazing package of technologies that would have cost millions of € just 20 years ago, were unfeasible 40 years ago and unthinkable 100 years ago.

And don't shrug off cell phones saying "yes I know they are technology marvels" whilst playing with a toothpick. That toothpick contains millions of lines of code! Think about the logistics behind cutting wood, transporting it, manufacturing the toothpicks at basically zero cost, sometimes with some nice artistic engraving, packaging it and delivering it to the shop where you absentmindedly bought it!  There are literally millions of lines of codes supporting all this, an amazing processing power, ...

ICT is an integral part of our Society, our lives and of the economic fabric. You simply don't see it but it is as import and as metabolic reactions are in each of our cells. It is thanks to them that we are living beings, it is thanks to ICT that our Societies can exist in the XXI century.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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