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In Focus

Stare a moment at this O. Chances are you can’t make out the words at either end of this line. That’s because extreme detail can be resolved only by the small slice of the human retina called the fovea. Our eyes compensate for this limitation by jumping from spot to spot. Now researchers are mimicking this phenomenon in an effort to avoid sending “wasted” pixels in digital images over the Internet. Foveal Point, server-based software developed by New York University computer scientist Chee Yap, sends high-resolution detail only for the area of an image at which a user’s mouse is pointing. The user specifies that area’s radius, and the surrounding image remains indistinct. The result: the bandwidth needed to download images such as satellite photos can be cut by as much as 95 percent, depending on the size of the foveated area and the haziness of the background. Yap hopes to license the software to a company that will adapt it for commercial Web browsers and mobile devices. “Every browser should have such smart’ viewers,” Yap says, so that users can “go to any site and view arbitrarily large and high-resolution images.”

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