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Plenoptic image compression takes a leap forward

Plenoptic cameras record images that allow you to view the recorded scene from different angles. The international JPEG Committee has singled out a solution proposed by researchers at TUT as reference software for a new standard that will pave the way for the widespread adoption of the technology.
With one plenoptic image one can for example refocus after the picture is taken. On left the image is focused on front objects and on the right the image is focused on midrange objects.
With one plenoptic image one can for example refocus after the picture is taken. On left the image is focused on front objects and on the right the image is focused on midrange objects.

Plenoptic technology offers a range of post-capture capabilities, such as multi-perspective images and the reconstruction of a 3D model based on a single snapshot. This technology has already found its way into microscopes, robotics and even some consumer cameras, but what is missing is a uniform standard for data compression and transmission.

“Plenoptic cameras produce a huge amount of data, as they record not only the colour and intensity of light but also its direction. Standardization is critical to achieve easy interoperability across companies and devices. Once the necessary standards are in place, anyone will be able to develop devices that work together,” says Professor Ioan Tabus from the Laboratory of Signal Processing at TUT.

Strong base for building a new standard

The international effort to develop a new standard for plenoptic image compression was launched last spring, when the JPEG Committee, which oversees the development of related standards, invited contributions from interested parties. The first step was to identify the best algorithm and coding solutions to serve as stepping-stones for further activities. The Committee received 13 proposals in response to its call. A proposal submitted by a research group comprising Professor Ioan Tabus and doctoral students Petri Helin and Pekka Astola was selected as the most promising option.

In the next stage, the initial solution is fine-tuned in collaboration with researchers from around the world. Regular meetings are held to keep track of progress.

“Standard-setting is always a collective effort that involves a large number of researchers, universities and companies. This ensures that all perspectives are taken into account and that we end up with the best possible standard for the global business community,” says Tabus.

“This JPEG Pleno standardization project is expected to be completed in 2019, which also marks the 27th anniversary of the adoption of the original JPEG format that we all know from digital images. Despite its age, JPEG has turned out to be so good that it remains the world’s most popular format for image compression and transmission. The JPEG Pleno team is hoping to develop a standard that is equal in its ability to stand the test of time.”

Companies on the lookout for new partners

The solution developed by Professor Tabus and his group is the culmination of years of hard work by researchers at TUT. Tabus greets the JPEG Committee’s decision to use their solution as reference software as an important recognition of TUT’s expertise in imaging research. TUT’s close involvement in international standardization activities will also open up new avenues for further research and collaboration.

“We’re in an excellent position to build valuable contacts with researchers and companies along the way. For example, researchers from the University of Sydney played a significant part in the development of the earlier JPEG2000 standard and they are now contributing to the JPEG-PLENO project. In addition, TUT stands out as an interesting potential partner for the many companies that are interested in collaborating with researchers for publication, research and R&D purposes.”

Further information:
Professor Ioan Tabus, tel. +358 40 849 0783, ioan.tabus@tut.fi
Doctoral student Petri Helin, petri.helin@tut.fi
Doctoral student Pekka Astola, pekka.astola@tut.fi

News submitted by: Sanna Kähkönen
Keywords: science and research, services and collaboration, signal processing