You’re looking at a photo of some van Gogh sunflowers, and the flowers start to sway on their long stalks as if stirred by a breeze. No, it’s not an LSD flashback; it’s the product of new image-editing tools developed at the University of Washington and Microsoft.
With the tools, a user can divide a digital still image into layers and assign a different action to each layer. In a photograph of a sailboat, for example, a swaying motion could be applied to the boat and a sideways motion to the clouds; the water, meanwhile, could be animated by algorithms that produce small distortions resembling ripples. The result can be played in a digital picture frame or as a desktop background or screensaver on a PC. The tools are experimental but might eventually be included in products, says lead researcher Richard Szeliski.
A system being developed in Finland turns camera-equipped cell phones into personal health and fitness advisors. A supermarket shopper using the technology can snap an image of the bar code on a packet of food. The phone forwards the code number to a central computer, which sends back information on the item’s ingredients and nutritional value. The computer also calculates how much exercise the shopper will have to do to burn off the calories he or she is about to buy, based on height, weight, age, and other factors.
Researchers at the Technical Research Centre of Finland, the University of Kuopio, and the Helsinki School of Economics collaborated to develop the technology and recently completed field testing. The system, which could be deployed in Finland in two years, also allows users to access logs that list their food purchases at any time via the Internet.
A new implant could relieve the high eye pressure of glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve and is the second leading cause of blindness. Bruce Shields, a glaucoma expert at the Yale University School of Medicine, working with bioengineers at GMP in Fort Lauderdale, FL, has created a drain that can be slipped into the white of the eye (the sclera), near the cornea, in five to ten minutes without expensive equipment. Tissue seals around the implant, preventing excess leakage, while an interior channel precisely controls fluid flow from the front of the eye to openings in the back, regulating eye pressure.