MIT Video Breakthrough Could Give Brands Sight, Sound, Even More Motion

Online agency executives complain that the creative process doesn't get enough attention. Software created by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology amplifies variations in video that are imperceptible to the naked eye, making it possible to exaggerate tiny motions. More telling, it could provide greater credibility for products.

MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory graduate student Michael Rubinstein designed the software, along with recent alumni Hao-Yu Wu, Eugene Shih and professors William Freeman, Fredo Durand and John Guttag. The researchers initially intended it to amplify color changes, but in their experiments found it amplified motion as well. The software makes visible the vibrations of individual guitar strings, or the ability to see someone's pulse as the skin reddens and pales with the flow of blood.

Eric Gulino, an ad executive at Skiver Advertising, said having the ability to see change without computer-generated graphics could increase the credibility of products because it would not require computer-generated art. He said it is not likely to revolutionize the way agencies create content, but it will open the door to demonstrate things not easily communicated and give consumers a whole new appreciation for products.



Take a car manufacturer, for example. "Maybe the manufacturer had trouble communicating the effectiveness of technology in the car that takes over just before a crash," Gulino said. "The seatbelts might tighten. The brakes are applied and the airbag deployed. It's difficult to show it in real-time. It just looks like a crash."

Rather than a simulation, the manufacturer would show the event as it happens, giving the brand more credibility. Simulation would have been the only way to demonstrate a high-speed crash."This technology opens up new avenues for creative folks," Gulino said. "It removes the fog from a consumer's perspective."

In a set of experiments, the software amplifies the movement of shadows in one frame of a street sequence photographed only twice, at an interval of about 15 seconds. Amplifying motion rather than color requires a different processing. The smaller the motion, the better it works.

Most of the research has been around imaging and monitoring medical conditions, such as in video baby monitors for the home, so that the respiration of sleeping infants would be clearly visible.

Agencies rarely work with universities like MIT. GroupM has begun to look into the idea, but doesn't work with researchers at the university yet. The ad industry already has a host of tools to create special effects, but even Needham Analyst Laura Martin agrees that "academic research demonstrates that diversity maximizes economic value."

While Martin refers to the TV ecosystem, her report on "The Future of TV: The Invisible Hand" highlights the need for more creativity in TV and video content.

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