Researchers at MIT and Cornell University hope to change that by providing photographers with squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the positions necessary to produce lighting effects specified through a simple, intuitive, camera-mounted interface.
At the International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualization, and Imaging in August, they take the first step toward realizing this vision, presenting a prototype system that uses an autonomous helicopter to produce a difficult effect called “rim lighting,” in which only the edge of the photographer’s subject is strongly lit.
According to Manohar Srikanth, who worked on the system as a graduate student and postdoc at MIT and is now a senior researcher at Nokia, he and his coauthors —MIT professor of computer science and engineering Frédo Durand and Cornell’s Kavita Bala, who also did her PhD at MIT — chose rim lighting for their initial experiments precisely because it’s a difficult effect.
“It’s very sensitive to the position of the light,” Srikanth says. “If you move the light, say, by a foot, your appearance changes dramatically.”
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