University and Nokia Research Center, Palo Alto, have created and released a new, open-source digital photography platform, called Fcam, (short for 'Frankencamera'). It allows developers to create new capabilities for digital cameras, and users to take advantage of a whole new class of photography apps. The platform is available as a free download for the Nokia N900, starting today, at https://garage.maemo.org/projects/fcam/.
Fcam allows the creation of new digital camera applications that help users overcome some of the shortcomings of their devices or create interesting new types of imagery. It is part of the Camera 2.0 project, created in collaboration between Nokia, Stanford, and other partners.
Nokia Fellow Kari Pulli said: “The N900 is a camera phone, but it runs a version of Linux almost as complete as that installed on personal computers”. For this reason, it was chosen as the host device for the Fcam platform.
The researchers have already created a series of new photography apps for the platform, some of which will also be free to download. These three will be available from the Fcam project page:
Fcamera is an example camera application that uses Fcam libraries and drivers. It is released in source code to serve as a starting point for programmers to create their own camera applications.
Low-light Assistant helps in situations where there is not enough light to avoid the choice between a quick exposure that will look sharp, but dark and noisy, and a long exposure that will have enough light, but likely be blurry. Instead, the app captures two images in rapid succession and then automatically combines them, resulting in a photo that is both bright and sharp.
HDR Capture helps in situations where there is too much light, such as a portrait of a person with a bright sky behind her. The camera takes up to three images with different exposure settings and combines them to an image that shows the details of both the foreground and background objects, without under or over-exposing any of them.
Photo-trickery is also on the cards. One of the applications described in a research paper captured the position and trajectory of playing cards thrown into the air with complete clarity through the use of two flash units, each behaving independently. The paper will be presented next week at the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles.
The hope, though, is that once Fcam is in the public domain, Nokia developers and camera programmers will work to create a whole new class of programmable camera applications which will be gathered together on the project web site.
What other applications would you like to see emerge if your device's camera had a bit more brains behind it? Personally, a slimming effect on selected subjects (me) would definitely be of interest.