New software helps edit billions of pixels in seconds

Computer scientists have developed a software that quickly edits “extreme resolution imagery,” huge photographs containing billions to hundreds of billions of pixels or dot-like picture elements. Until now, it took hours to process these “gigapixel” images. The new software needs only seconds to produce preview images useful to doctors, intelligence analysts, photographers, artists, engineers and others.

By sampling only a fraction of the pixels in a massive image – for example, a satellite photo or a panorama made of hundreds of individual photos – the software can produce good approximations or previews of what the fully processed image would look like, reported computer graphics journal, ACM Transactions on Graphics.

That allows someone to interactively edit and analyse massive images – pictures larger than a gigapixel (billion pixels) – in seconds rather than hours, said Valerio Pascucci, associate professor of computer science at the University of Utah in the US.

Pascucci defines massive imagery as images containing more than one gigapixel – which is equal to 100 photos from a 10-megapixel (10 million pixel) digital camera.

“You can go anywhere you want in the image,” he said. “You can zoom in, go left, right. From your perspective, it is as if the full ‘solved’ image has been computed.”

He compares the photo-editing software with public opinion polling: “You ask a few people and get the answer as if you asked everyone. It’s exactly the same thing.”

The new software – Visualisation Streams for Ultimate Scalability, or ViSUS – allows gigapixel images stored on an external server or drive to be edited from a large computer, a desktop or laptop computer, or even a smart phone, Pascucci said.

“The same software runs very well on an iPhone or a large computer,” he added.