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Innovation

A robot for your digital camera?

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and NASA Ames will release in March a $200 robot which will transform your digital cameras into powerful image-makers without your help. Attached to almost any model of digital cameras, the Gigapan robot platform will take continuous snapshots of a place or an event. Then the software provided by the research team will produce a panoramic image built from all these snapshots. And these images will be zoomable. This means you'll have the best of two worlds, big panoramas and startling details.
Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and NASA Ames will release in March a $200 robot which will transform your digital cameras into powerful image-makers without your help. Attached to almost any model of digital cameras, the Gigapan robot platform will take continuous snapshots of a place or an event. Then the software provided by the research team will produce a panoramic image built from all these snapshots. And these images will be zoomable. This means you'll have the best of two worlds, big panoramas and startling details.

This GigaPan platform has been developed at Carnegie Mellon University by Illah Nourbakhsh, an associate professor of robotics with the help of the NASA Ames Intelligent Robot Group. This project is part of the Global Connection Project.

Before going further, below are different panoramic images taken with the GigaPan. The first one represents the Dublin Castle in Ireland. (Credit: Maria Bualat, GigaPan team)

A panorama of the Dublin Castle in Ireland

The second one is a view of the Golden Temple in India. (Credit: Matt Deans, GigaPan team)

A panorama of the Golden Temple in India

Finally, here is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (Credit: Randy Sargent, GigaPan team)

A panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

These images are clickable -- and zoomable -- from this page which contains other panoramic images taken by the team -- or the GigaPan robot.

Now, let's go back to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for some more details about the GigaPan project.

Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor of robotics at CMU and head of its robotics master's program, said the Gigapan robot he helped develop takes as many as 300 photographs in 10 minutes to a half hour with any digital camera adjusted to the optical zoom setting. Software the team developed patches the photographs together in quilt-like fashion to create panoramic but highly detailed shots.

And what could be the applications for such a robotic aid for cameras?

The Gigapan allows scientific, geographic and cultural exploration of regions. It permits one to see the sights, view architecture or study biodiversity. Police could use it to record and study crime scenes.

But that's not all. It could be used as an educational tool or by travel agencies. And of course, by you starting in March 2007. Instructions on how to buy -- or build -- this robot will be available next month from the Gigapan website.

Finally, it's interesting to note that the idea for the robot and its associated software came from Mars rovers. "The Gigapan idea originated with Randy Sargent, formerly of NASA and now a CMU faculty member based in California. He, Dr. Nourbakhsh and their research team developed an earlier version of the imaging technology for the Mars Exploration Rovers that NASA used to explore panoramic images of the Martian surface."

Sources: David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 31, 2007; and various other websites

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