It has become more rare lately for me to run into a new technology where I’m completely clueless how it works and I have that “FM” moment. (“Friendly Magic” is the polite translation).
In computer geek circles, when someone relatively clueless (not a pejorative, a technically accurate description. They may be highly cluefull, but relatively clueless on that point in question) asks in all innocence “How did you do that?”, often about a subject that will take a day or two to adequately explain, the answer may just be “F.M.” and a grin 8-)
For me, I loved that “This is just F.M.” feeling when seeing some technology for the first time; and especially as a kid (and even well into my early professional career) had it often. I would seek out Tech Magazines for the newest “way cool and WTF how did they do that?” F.M. 8-) Moment.
But as the mind’s hoard grows, the F.M. 8-) moments become more rare. One of natures cruel ironies. Those folks who love tech the most for just that marveling at F.M. 8-) moment are the ones doomed to have if fade the fastest as they come to have more “Ah Hah!” moments, eventually becoming more “oh, yeah, that…” moments.
(The F.M. moments are not the same as the “Oh Bother” moments where you know you can work out some technical issue and have clue about the basic idea behind it, but also know it’s going to take you more time than it is worth and there will be no “Oh Boy” moment at the end. So, for example, figuring out how GIStemp was screwing up the temperature data was an “Oh Bother. I can do it, but it’s drudge work.” process, not a moment of joy…)
So after a fairly long drought of such a moment, I was just presented with one.
Listening to NPR they were talking about a “new kind of camera” and a “new kind of photography”. “Oh, sure…” I think. I know more about photography than most professional photographers. Wonder what thing I already know they think is new.
Well, turns out they were right. It really IS a whole new kind of photography. Called “Light Field” photography. You can take a photo with, say, a flower in focus in the foreground and the background blurry. Then later click on the background and make IT the focused zone and see what’s happing there… “How does it work? F.M. GRIN!!!”
I am extraordinarily happy to tell you that I have no clue whatsoever how they do it. GRIN 8-)
I’ve found a web page at Stanford (who did the early work) that summarizes it a bit and has links to the details on “how” and the physics. I’m going to put the link here. My guess is about a week to sort through it and turn the F.M. into “Ah Hah!”… but I’m not going to do that; at least not for a while. I’m going to cherish this F.M. moment for a while. Maybe even a few months. Each time I click on an image and it refocuses it’s just a GRIN all over again. I’m not going to let that go easily, and certainly not for a week worth of brain work… (Hint: It looks like one of the techniques is to use an array of microlenses or micromirrors to present a lot of data to a more normal sensor from which a “light field” is calculated. Yes, it’s F.M. all done with mirrors 8-) GRIN! )
Yes, you CAN click on online images and see the effect. They bundled the ‘recompute’ software into the web pictures…
So that’s all I’ve got for you on this from an “understanding” point of view. From here on out it’s just links. Well, that, and “I Want One!”…
A sample of images and sort of overview page:
The Stanford Tech page:
The Lytro company page and the camera they are selling:
A fairly productive web search on the topic (using a search engine that doesn’t spy on you)
A web search on the Lytro camera that put an explanation in the top panel that I’ve tried to avoid reading ;-)
A link to that story of “How the F.M. works” so that when I’m ready “For that day…”:
The NPR story: