The camera phone of the future could have no camera at all

Apr 17, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

The camera phone of the future could have no camera at all

Apr 17, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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A few decades ago, it was impossible to imagine a camera without film. It was also hard to imagine a gadget such as a smartphone. Now, these two are merged together and becoming better and better all the time. But what would happen if you took away the camera from a smartphone, but still be able to take photos with it? A theory is that this could be awaiting us in the future, thanks to the artificial intelligence. The endgame for cameras in the future could be having no camera at all.

According to the Verge, one day we may be able to capture images without the photographic equipment. No lenses, no sensor, no light – just the artificial intelligence. You will need to point the phone camera at something, and Google will use the data to simulate the scene. Based on your location, direction, position, the angle of the shot, the time of day and the weather – the software will generate the image of the scene you’re photographing.

It could also be possible to photograph people at a location. You should snap a bunch of portraits in advance, and the software will be able to stitch the photo of people and the scenery together.

This theory sounds intriguing, exciting, and a bit scary, too. Artificial intelligence can already achieve a lot of things we couldn’t have imagined before. It’s hard to visualize that you wouldn’t need a camera to take a photo, but on the other hand – you can already recreate portraits using a Gameboy. This concept of “camera without the camera” may be hard to imagine now, but when you think about it – who could have imagined the Internet before it first appeared?

When it comes to photographing without the camera, one part of The Verge’s article particularly captured my attention:

The trouble with light is that there’s rarely ever enough of it, and capturing it requires battery power and complex physical components. It used to be the only source of information for photographs, but in the digital age we have countless others. They don’t strictly need to replace cameras altogether, but they can certainly assist, improve, and in some circumstances supplant the traditional method of taking a photo. If cameras are to maintain their quality while shrinking down to the microscopic levels where they can fit inside a Google Glass or other wearable technology, they might need to not be cameras at all.

It’s true that sometimes the amount of light is insufficient for a decent photo. We could use some new solution to this problem when none of the ones we know are available. Still, if we took photos without the light, but by using artificial intelligence – could it still be called photography? If AI is the future of phone cameras (or cameras in general, some day), should it become an entirely new genre and a new medium?

What do you think? Could artificial intelligence assist photography, or even replace it completely someday? Or is it possible that the two mediums coexist separately?

[via FStoppers]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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5 responses to “The camera phone of the future could have no camera at all”

  1. Allan Alcibar Avatar
    Allan Alcibar

    That sounds like the dumbest shit ever. A rendering would take up so much resources than just processing a photo.

    Might as well just animate everything then.

  2. DLS Avatar
    DLS

    Bathroom selfies made by Google should be interesting.

  3. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    AI will slowly replace or be introduced into Photoshop, as it already kinda is, but replacing photography? That’s a bit harder to believe.

    I’m not sure what sort of accessment The Verge’s article did on this, but surely they must realize that most of those AI techniques they are talking about rely on training based on massive sets of actual photographs themselves, right? One can’t replace another because one depends on the other.

    Moreover, a whole bunch of photography these days relies on the concept of showing what’s happening “now”… if it’s all AI, it’s not very representative of “now” but rather fictional stuff. Even though I realize that many times those are doctored, curated, and altered to a point of being just fantasy, I personally think that photography as in clicking a shutter button and imediatelly posting it without post processing and filters will always have value in society.

    I see some utility in having an AI figure out content and context based on location and other sensors without needing a proper camera module, but we’re nowhere close to an AI churning out an entire photo given little input data to it.

    Furthermore, the more you understand how AI processes work and what sort of hardware they really need, the more you distance yourself from some ridiculous claims. It’s far easier that in our lifetime, sensors will keep evolving to be used in all sorts of scenarios with sufficient resolution not to be taken over by better images produced by some sort of advanced AI.

    Take the image on the cover. Let’s assume the so called AI would have access to GPS data, clock, weather, accelerometer and gyroscope, the entire Google Images database, perhaps something more advanced regarding photography and whatnot.

    It’d take a whole bunch of computational cycles and power, 3d modelling, composition, and a whole bunch of other stuff to create a very rough approximation of the scene from scratch. This would either be done in servers elsewhere, or it’d need an impossibly beefy internal hardware that would require multiple times more space than a simple camera sensor module.

    Tie that to people, objects – cars, vehicles and whatnot -, weather conditions, plus other factors and it becomes and exponentially harder problem to solve. It’d sure be interesting to see what an AI could come up with versus what’s in front of you, but even in centuries it’d still be a harsh approximation.

    We actually have some of the biggest (like warehouse sized) most complex supercomputers nowadays trying to model stuff like weather patterns and specific sets of world simulation, and they are nowhere near getting close to something like a photographic level of reproduction. We are chaos.

    AIs are all being developed as proprietary things nowadays targeting consumer demand, and everything indicates that they’ll keep going that route.

    Given all that, it makes far more commercial sense for camera sensors to keep evolving to a point it’s almost imperceptible and unobstrusive inside a smartphone rather than relying on some magical AI that could composite a photo without any camera module input.

    But we could get there one day I guess. For more information, watch The Matrix. :P

  4. Cameron Cross Avatar
    Cameron Cross

    This is seriously the dumbest thing I’ve heard in along time. If it’s referencing preexisting portraits of your friends, then every “picture” they’re in is going to look the same, with the same expression.

  5. Brian Menin Avatar
    Brian Menin

    This technology will be of great interest to people who have no interest in actual photography.