New Photo Software Removes Reflections From Images

A new photo software developed by scientists at Google and MIT can remove reflections from photographs.

When taking a picture from inside a plane or through a window, unappealing reflections often make their way into your image. Unsightly reflections may soon be a thing of the past, as researchers at Google and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a solution that eliminate them altogether.

The researchers from Google and MIT have created a software that has the ability to remove reflections, dust, and raindrops that make their way into your pictures. This software could prove to be helpful when you want to take a picture from your window seat on an airplane or from the top of a tall building like Sears Tower in Chicago.

“ Photographers are often forced to take images through obstructing elements ,” said the researchers in a video explaining the technology behind the software. “ For instance when taking images through a glass window, reflections from indoor objects often obstruct the scene we wish to capture. Our algorithm automatically decomposes the sequence of images into a background and reflection component to produce a new clean image where the reflection has been removed.”

And it’s not just reflections that the software can remove. The software has the capacity to remove an obstruction (say, a fence or railing) and enhance the reflection.

“ Similarly when photographing a scene thought a fence we would like to remove the occluding fence from our image,” explain the researchers. “Again our algorithm is able to decompose the sequence into the background and foreground to produce the desired de-fenced image.”

Essentially, the science behind the technology is the concept of motion parallax – when things closer to us seem to be moving faster than things farther away. “Since they’re moving differently, we can use that information to figure out there are two layers we’re actually looking at, and we remove one of them,” said Google research scientist Michael Rubinstein to MIT Technology Review.

The researchers will be presenting their paper at the Siggraph computer graphics and interaction conference in Los Angeles later this month.

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