Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Extreme makeover: computer science edition

Suppose you have a cherished home video, taken at your birthday party. You're fond of the video, but your viewing experience is marred by one small, troubling detail.

There in the video, framed and hanging on the living room wall amidst the celebration, is a color photograph of your former significant other.


But what if you could somehow reach inside the video and swap the offending photo for a snapshot of your current love? How perfect would that be?

A group of Stanford University researchers specializing in artificial intelligence have developed software that makes such a switch relatively simple. The researchers, computer science graduate students Ashutosh Saxena and Siddharth Batra, and Assistant Professor Andrew Ng, see interesting potential for the technology they call ZunaVision.

They say a user of the software can easily plunk an image on almost any planar surface in a video, whether wall, floor or ceiling. And the embedded images don't have to be still photos—you can insert a video inside a video.

Here's the opportunity to sing karaoke side-by-side with your favorite American Idol celebrity and post the video to YouTube. Or preview a virtual copy of a painting on your wall before you buy. Or liven up those dull vacation videos.

There is also a potential financial aspect to the technology. The researchers suggest that anyone with a video camera might earn some spending money by agreeing to have unobtrusive corporate logos placed inside their videos before they are posted online. The person who shot the video, and the company handling the business arrangements, would be paid per view, in a fashion analogous to Google AdSense, which pays websites to run small ads.

The embedding technology is driven by an algorithm that first analyzes the video, with special attention paid to the section of the scene where the new image will be placed. The color, texture and lighting of the new image are subtly altered to blend in with the surroundings. Shadows seen in the original video will be seen in the added image as well. The result is a photo or video that appears to be an integral part of the original scene, rather than a sticker pasted artificially on the video.

For the algorithm ("3D Surface Tracker Technology") to produce these realistic results, it also must deal with what researchers call "occluding objects" in the video. In our birthday video, an "occluding object" might be a partygoer walking in front of the newly hung photo. The algorithm can handle most such objects by keeping track of which pixels belong to the photo and which belong to the person walking in the foreground; the photo disappears behind the person walking by and then reappears, just as in the original video.

Camera motion gives the algorithm another item to digest. As the camera pans and zooms, the portion of the wall containing the embedded object moves and changes shape. The embedded image must keep up with this shape-shifting geometry, or the video may go one direction while the embedded image goes another.

To prevent such mishaps, the algorithm builds a model, pixel by pixel, of the area of interest in the video. "If the lighting begins to change with the motion of the video or the sun or the shadows, we keep a belief of what it will look like in the next frame. This is how we track with very high sub-pixel accuracy," Batra said. It's as if the embedded image makes an educated guess of where the wall is going next, and hurries to keep up.

Other technologies can perform these tricks—witness the spectacular special effects in movies and the virtual first-down lines on televised football games—but the Stanford researchers say the existing systems are expensive, time consuming and require considerable expertise.

Some of the recent Stanford work grew out of an earlier project, Make3D, a website that converts a single still photograph into a brief 3D video. It works by finding planes in the photo and computing their distance from the camera, relative to each other.

"That means, given a single image, our algorithm can figure out which parts are in the front and which parts are in the background," said Saxena. "Now we have extended this technology to videos."

The researchers realize that their technology will be used in unpredictable ways, but they have some guesses. "Suppose you're a student living in a dorm and suppose you want to show it to your parents [in a video]. You can put a nice poster there of Albert Einstein," Batra said. "But if you want to show it to your friends, you can have a Playboy poster there."

A hands-on demonstration of the technology can be seen at

Dan Stober | EurekAlert!
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>