When last we checked with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), they were algorithmizing Instagram popularity. Now, the prestigious robotics lab has developed a drone that creates perfect lighting conditions for photographers looking to put together the perfect shot.
Noting that setting up lighting (especially outside the studio) is “cumbersome and time-consuming,” CSAIL’s Adam Conner-Simons said in a press release that the drones will help shutterbugs by “automatically [assuming] the positions necessary to produce lighting effects specified through a simple, intuitive, camera-mounted interface.”
CSAIL will be demoing a prototype of the system on at the International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics Visualization and Imaging in Vancouver. There, the lab will use a helicopter robot to create an effect known as “rim lighting,” wherein the subject of a photograph is backlit so that the edges of a subject are strongly lit. The effect, which grad student Manohar Srikanth notes is very difficult, is created by a drone that rapidly adjusts to both the position of the subject and the photographer.
“If somebody is facing you, the rim you would see is on the edge of the shoulder, but if the subject turns sideways, so that he’s looking 90 degrees away from you, then he’s exposing his chest to the light, which means that you’ll see a much thicker rim light,” Srikanth said, “So in order to compensate for the change in the body, the light has to change its position quite dramatically.”
The system is an assuredly expensive and complicated to the solution of lighting, but it implies a growing need on drones in everyday life. As technology develops more autonomous robots to help circumvent daily hassles, bots like CSAIL’s lighting drone will become more and more commonplace. Is this good news for photographers? While some would claim that rim lighting is a difficult tactic that should be reserved for highly skilled photographers with an intimate conception of lighting, this system also provides a cheaper option for photogs that can’t afford to pay assistants to capture a shot.
The International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics Visualization and Imaging will take place from August 8-10 in Vancouver. A venue has yet to be announced.