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Dark Flash - Take pictures with invisible flash

Friday, July 24, 2009 , Posted by Author at Friday, July 24, 2009

Two New York University researchers have created a camera that takes photos with an “invisible flash” of infrared and ultraviolet light to a smarter way to take photos in the dark.

NYU professor Rob Fergus and doctoral student Dilip Krishnan created the camera in an attempt to do away with blinding regular flashes and the “red eye” effect that usually accompanies them.

To make a camera with the advancement, which they call “dark flash,” the duo modified a flashbulb to emit light over a wider range of frequencies and filter out visible light. They then removed filters that usually prevent a camera’s silicon image sensor from detecting IR and UV rays.

There are pros and cons to the approach: though a “dark flash” creates a crisp image, results have an odd color balance something like night-vision. Read the full NYU study.

To remedy the situation, Fergus and Krishnan combined the result with color information from a flash-free (thus dim and blurry) photograph of the same scene taken immediately after the dark flash image. The pair combined the two images using software for the final result.

Unfortunately, some hurdles remain: some objects (such as freckles) absorb UV and IR light, and don’t appear in either the “dark flash” version or the final composite image.

Fergus and Krishnan will present their work at the Siggraph conference in New Orleans in August.

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