A Picture’s Worth N Words

A few days ago I posted about forensic linguistics and the unreliability of some witness statements. So I thought it might be interesting, though a stretch for Slaw I admit, to show you how photos are becoming even less reliable pictures of the truth than you thought they were, and incidentally introduce you to a set of graphics tools in the making that are going to be very hot.

What I want you to see in action is a “smart image resizer.” This exists now, thanks to Dr. Ariel Shamir, who now works for Adobe, and his technique known as seam carving. This technique is being implemented by Aviary, that new graphics application company I spoke of, and, code-named Woodpecker, will be in the hands of anyone who wishes it soon.

The graphics problem for which seam carving is the solution has to do with excising portions of digital images in such a way that the remaining picture is cogent, and, indeed, seamless. We’ve all heard of Photoshopping, because that great Adobe program, in the hands of a skilled operator, can do pretty much anything the operator wishes with a graphics image. So it’s not the mutability of images that’s the novelty here; rather, it’s the ease with which it can be done — by you, me, anyone.

Seam carving has the program hunt out those paths through a picture that contain the least important information and cut them out. Repeat this trick enough times and, lo, the mountain does come to Mohammed. Take a look (and hang in there till the end — 4 minutes or so — to watch how easy it is to carve someone out of existence): link

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