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Adobe hires a passel of brainiacs

Adobe Systems has signed on three researchers who've investigated new technical tools for photography and computing.

Adobe Systems has hired Shai Avidan, co-developer of a technology to dynamically resize photos in a way that preserves the more important areas of the image, and a couple of other researchers as well.

The content-aware resizing tool stretched the two narrower images by Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige into the adjacent wider versions. Shai Avidan, Ariel Shamir

Avidan's presentation this month at the Siggraph computer graphics show and the accompanying video has ignited a frenzy of chatter from Slashdot, TechCrunch and elsewhere. I first heard about it last week from the blog of Adobe Photoshop Senior Product Manager John Nack, who also brought word of the new hire Wednesday.

Avidan began work at Adobe Monday. Another new hire is Wojciech Matusik, who's worked on a camera lens system that can photograph an image simultaneously at four different apertures and on a real-time image selection technique that employs dual-image sensors. And starting in a couple of weeks is Sylvain Paris, who's worked on technology such as the two-scale tone management that can Ansel-Adamsize a photo by transferring the style of one to another.

Avidan's "content-aware image resizing" technology works by searching for the vertical or horizontal pathways that skirt around busy areas of the photo--for example, between clouds in front of an even blue sky. It then removes or adds pixels on either side of that pathway, depending on whether the image is being shrunk or enlarged.

The technology also can be used to crop out specific parts of an image that a user highlights as disposable. Neighboring pixels are stretched to fill in the gap. Though, Avidan and technology co-creator Ariel Shamir caution in a paper about the technology that the resizing doesn't work in some situations--for example a picture of car that occupies the full frame of the image.

Nack labeled the technology "holy-crap-worthy," but not all are so excited about it.

Griped Mike Johnston at the Online Photographer:

"To me this is a form of auto-fakery that will further erode whatever integrity photographs still possess," he said. "I'm not saying it's wrong, just that it's wrong for me given my philosophy of what photography's all about, and I won't say it's bad, just that it's bad in terms of the principles I try to abide by when I picture the world as a photographer."

Personally, I'm in Johnston's camp, but the resizing technology is intriguing. In any event, before getting too antsy about a new spate of wickedly Photoshopped news photos, take Nack's disclaimer to heart: "Just because a particular researcher has worked on a particular technology in his or her past life, it's not possible to conclude that a specific feature will show up in a particular Adobe product