I was half tempted to skip over Adrianne Jeffries story at ReadWriteWeb about Google’s new algorithm for hopefully better handling scaling between the wider range of screen sizes that have become prevalent with the rise of popularity in mobile computing. That is until I realized that the technique in question is one I read about some time ago, seam carving.
The technique was originally developed at Georgia Tech and the fact it is being explored by Google is a pretty compelling endorsement of its capabilities. In short, it takes into account the content of the images, or in this case video frames, to push the sort of degradation incurred by re-sizing into the areas where the viewer is less interested.
“Think of salient content as actors, faces, or structured objects, where the viewer anticipates specific, important details to perceive it as being correct and unaltered. We cannot change this content beyond uniform scaling without it being noticeable. On the other hand, non-salient content, such as sky, water or a blurry out-of-focus background can be squished or stretched without changing the overall appearance or the viewer noticing a dramatic change,” Google researchers said.
There is a video demonstrating Google’s application of the algorithm to some video samples. In the cases where the re-targeted video is pushed harder, going from widescreen to standard, it is still pretty easy to spot defects. However, given how obtrusive blackbars are when changing aspect ratios, it may be an acceptable trade off to any number of viewers. The video also includes some illustrates of how the technique is applied, especially to video, so serves as a decent update to the original story.
Note that Google is still only experimenting. There is no schedule for integrating any of this work into YouTube though the eventual possibilities are tantalizing.