Capturing the invisible: designing context-aware photography

Capturing the invisible: designing context-aware photography
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  Capturing the Invisible: Designing Context-Aware Photography Abstract Taking a photograph using a digital camera is today stillbasically the same as using the analog counterpart. Weare designing a digital camera that senses its context toexplore new possibilities for digital photography. Thesensor data produces real-time visual effects on theimage displayed in the viewfinder and enables the userto take unique pictures, whose visual qualities reflectthe context. Our first prototype is based on a digitalcamera mounted on a handheld computer. Ourdevelopment process involves participatory designsessions with possible end users, including a panel ofenthusiastic amateur photographers. Keywords Digital photography, Context Awareness, ParticipatoryDesign, Mobile Users, Lomographers, Digital Media,Alternative Photography, Environmental Photography. Industry/category Entertainment, photography, mobile users Project statement Digital cameras are becoming increasingly popularamong everyday users. Our goal is to make digitalphotography more exciting for amateur photographers,in particular those with artistic ambitions. Even thoughdigital technology has enabled many new possibilities Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this workfor personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided thatcopies are not made or distributed for profit or commercialadvantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation onthe first page. To copy otherwise, or republish, to post on serversor to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or afee. Copyright 2003, ACM. Maria HÂkansson Future Applications LabViktoria InstituteBox 620SE-405 30 Gˆteborg, Sara Ljungblad Future Applications LabViktoria InstituteBox 620SE-405 30 Gˆteborg, Lars Erik Holmquist Future Applications LabViktoria InstituteBox 620SE-405 30 Gˆteborg,  ©2003 ACM 1-58113-728-1 03/0006 5.00  2 for sharing, storing, copying, editing, and publishingpictures, we believe that more could be done toenhance the user experience. Instead of focusing onwhat can be done digitally with a picture after it hasbeen taken, we believe that the actual moment ofcapturing an image can be made more fun.When taking an analog photograph, one can playaround with parameters such as light, speed, andfocus. But what about letting other parametersinfluence the image, and viewing the effects in real-time? Would it be possible to capture something inaddition to the visuals of the scenery? Sounds in thebackground, pollution in the air, smell—can suchcontextual information be somehow reflected in apicture? And if so, would there be users who found thisinteresting? These were the initial questions when theproject was initiated.Together with explorative amateur photographers, so-called Lomographers [5], we are creating a camera thatwill have real-time visual effects. The effects will bebased on sensors on the camera that collect contextualinformation such as sounds, pollution, temperature,and smell (see sidebar). Sensors have been used incombination with digital video cameras in otherresearch projects, e.g., StartleCam   [3] and LAFCam   [4](see sidebar). However, their use of sensors is quitedifferent from ours, since we want to use contextawareness to create visual effects. Our approach ismore similar to the way music is produced by thecontext in Sonic City   [2], which uses multiple sensorsto sense the surroundings and affect the musicaloutput. Project participants “Context Aware Photography” is an ongoing research project at the Future Applications Lab in Göteborg,Sweden. It is funded by the Swedish Foundation forStrategic Research, through the three-year financed“Mobile Services” project, which focuses on newapplications in mobile media. The project describedhere was initiated in October 2002. The currentprototype is part of a B.Sc. thesis in softwareengineering. Process The project includes conceptual design andparticipatory design, as well as the building and testingof a camera prototype. The conceptual work includedgetting an insight into the vast area of photography,studying several trends and photographers. We foundourselves inspired by spontaneous and explorativephotography, such as the experimental desire andhumor in the photos taken by the Lomographic Society[5]. The Lomographers take photographs with a “don’tthink, just shoot” mentality, using special cameras thatcreate unpredictable color and light effects. Anothersource of inspiration is photographers and artists thatuse various techniques to “capture the moment,” forinstance the body of work that documents AndyWarhol’s Factory in the ‘60s [6].Our design method involves workshops with twocontrasting groups: a group of traditional photographystudents, and a group of Lomographers. The first groupconsisted of seven photography students whoparticipated in a small interview and exercise wherethey presented some of their pictures. This was done tofind out about their experience and interest in Figure 1.  Light, speed, and focusare parameters in traditionalphotography. Examples of things that canbe sensed: !  Movements !  Sound !  Temperature !  Pollution !  Humidity !  Smell !  Electromagnetic fields StartleCam is a wearable videocamera that detects changes inthe user’s emotional state with askin conductivity sensor (galvanicskin response [GSR]). Thechanges trigger the system tostore digital images of the user’simmediate surroundings at themoment of arousal. LAFCam is a video camera thatuses GSR and laughter detectionto simplify the editing of videosby marking the most interestingparts according to sensor values.  3 photography, as well as what motivates them to takepictures.The second group consisted of three Lomographers. Weinterviewed them about their interest in photography.By using props and scenarios, we held a discussionabout the conceptual ideas in the project. After themeeting, new ideas and directions emerged from theparticipants’ input. Research details The meeting with the two contrasting groups helped usto define the potential end users. The photographystudents had a strong interest in the traditionalphotographic process and some were openly negativetowards digital photography. The Lomographers alsoseemed skeptical towards digital technology in general,but were nevertheless interested in applications thatcould make digital photography fun. We found it usefulto involve the Lomographers in the design process,since they were prepared to use their camera in manydifferent contexts and situations, and were open-minded in exploring new means of photography.We were particularly interested in their views about ifand how context and picture could be correlated. Wasthis considered an interesting feature of photography?If so, should each sensor value be readable in apicture? By readable, we mean that the user should beable to draw some conclusions about the sensorconditions under which the image was taken. Or, wouldit be enough to consider it as an exploration of visualeffects? Three different output alternatives werehighlighted: readable image effects; “artistic” imageeffects rather than readable ones; and “raw” contextdata included as a supplementing file. In the firstalternative, the current temperature could, forexample, be readable in the image by the amount ofred or blue colors, which reflect a warmer or colderenvironment. In the second alternative, the visualeffect caused by the temperature would be consideredmerely artistic instead of informative. In the raw dataalternative, sensor values could be presented in termsof figures, e.g., “15°C.” According to theLomographers, contextual information (such as forexample, sound and pollution) might be hard toexpress, strictly using visual effects. They were notinterested in having the contextual informationavailable in raw data as a supplement to the image file,but preferred to explore the visual effects. This led usto take an approach that strived for the exploration of“artistic” effects, rather than trying to make readableones. The Lomographers could imagine themselves asend users of such a camera and suggested that it wouldbe suitable for recreational pursuits. Rather thanappealing to professional photographers, it could allowanyone to take artistic photos anywhere. Results The current prototype is based on a handheld computerwith a digital camera, NexiCam [7]. It uses theGapiDraw software platform for creating advancedgraphics on handheld computers [1]. The prototypecurrently uses simulated sensor values, which wasconsidered the best approach to be able to rapidly testour conceptual ideas of real-time visual effects. Thesimulated sensor values affect hue, saturation, andvalue in the image shown in the viewfinder (seesidebar, Figure 8). These parameters were chosen as astarting point, since they render the image withoutdestroying the scenery (unless they are reflecting anextreme situation). Figure 2: Participatory designwith Lomographers. Figure 3:  The current prototypeis based on a handheld computerwith a digital camera.  4 Figure 4-7: Images taken with the current prototype. From left to right: image without any effects; simulated sensor values affectingthe saturation; affecting the value; and finally, an effect where hues are switched. Hue, saturation and value are correlated and affecteach other, which is similar to how light, speed, andfocus work in an analog camera. However, we will alsoexplore parameters that are tangential, i.e., they donot affect each other. An example of this would be tomanipulate the resolution of an image according togiven sensor values, which would not directly affect, forexample, the saturation.The Lomographers will be involved in the decision-making about which sensors and which visual effects touse, and their correlation. This is still work in progress.Future work involves further participatory design withthe Lomographers, including a user test of the firstprototype to guide the continuing design process.We believe that the potential of digital photography isnot fully explored. Working closely with experimentalamateur photographers, we are discovering new,exciting possibilities. We strive for a new, inspiring userexperience in digital photography that will let anyone atanytime get an artistic view of the world and capturethe moment. Acknowledgements We thank the Lomographers: Katja Andersson, AndreasCarlsson, and Johan Åberg. We also thank ourcolleagues at the Future Applications Lab and especiallyPontus Munck for developing the prototype. References [1] GapiDraw, (last visited 21 Jan. 03).[2] Gaye, L., Holmquist, L.E. and Mazé, R. Sonic City:Merging Urban Walkabouts With Electronic MusicMaking. In Companion of UIST 2002.[3] Healey, J. and Picard, R. W. StartleCam: A CyberneticWearable Camera. In Proceedings of the SecondInternational Symposium on Wearable Computers1998, Perceptual Computing Technical Report nr. 468.[4] Lockerd, A. and Mueller, F. LAFCam: LeveragingAffective Feedback Camcorder. In Proceedings of CHI2002, ACM Press, pp. 574-575.[5] The Lomographic Society, (lastvisited 21 Jan. 03).[6] Name, B. All Tomorrow’s Parties – Billy Name’sphotographs of Andy Warhol’s Factory. London: Frieze,1997.[7] NexiCam, (last visited 21 Jan. 03). Hue  changes the color scale thatcauses every color to switch e.g.,making a face blue. For anexample, see Figure 7. Saturation  affects the image bymaking the colors either faded orextremely saturated. For anexample, see Figure 5. Value  affects the light in theimage. If the value is low theimage turns black and if it is highthe image gets brighter. For anexample, see Figure 6. Figure 8:  Trying out the visualeffects in the current prototype.
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