ShareThis Page
CMU program lets photo editors manipulate objects in 3-D |

CMU program lets photo editors manipulate objects in 3-D

Carnegie Mellon researchers have developed a program that allows photographers and graphic designers to take a two-dimensional object in a photograph and work with it in three dimensions.
Carnegie Mellon computer scientists have found a way to work with photos in three dimensions. The research team thinks their program will be helpful for the retail and the design industries.

Photo editing software is so common that smartphones, tablets and social media sites come with programs — with a major limitation.

No matter the desired result — a vintage filter on Instagram, a red hat in a black-and-white picture in Photoshop — users can work with objects in those photographs only in two dimensions.

A Carnegie Mellon University graduate student is trying to change that through software that lets users move objects in a photograph in three dimensions.

Natasha Kholgade, a robotics Ph.D. candidate at CMU, has done a lot of work in computer graphics. While looking at her origami swans, she thought something was missing.

“One thing I couldn’t do was make my origami models come to life,” she said.

With Object Manipulator 3-D, she starts with the photo of the swans. She finds a 3-D rendering of a swan on the Internet. She introduces the information about that swan, including the parts she can’t see in the photo, into her software.

And then, she said, she can move the swan around. She can twist and turn it, while everything else in the image stays still. She can even make it fly.

University officials said a Google Research Award funded the project.

Though amateur photographers and graphic design dabblers will have fun with OM 3-D, Kholgade said professionals could use the program to design interactive retail catalogs. Parents might be able to “play” with a toy online before buying it for their kids. Interior designers could take a picture of a room and re-configure the furniture with a few clicks of a mouse.

With all photo editing software comes the ability to doctor images. Kholgade and her mentor, Yaser Sheikh, a professor of robotics at CMU, recognize that is an issue with her program as well.

“What we’re doing is just one more step,” Sheikh said about photo editing in three dimensions rather than two. “It’s starting to take off in such a way that it is something that should be discussed seriously.”

Sheikh said other software programs can track what has been done to an image, and the pixels in an altered image carry information about what is original and what has been manipulated. Since the software isn’t meant to make fake images, nothing they’ve done would fool a program that roots out fakes, he said.

“We’re making it obvious that people should be more skeptical,” he said.

In a world where doctored images run through social media sites faster than they can be debunked, Will Yurman, a photojournalism and multimedia lecturer at Penn State University, said photo editing software has the opposite result. People believe what they see long before realizing it’s not real.

“The easier this becomes, the harder it is to believe what we’re seeing,” he said.

Megha Satyanarayana is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7991 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.