Over the last decade, digital cameras have radically refocused the way people capture and manipulate pictures. Today, the snap of a photo is merely a starting point for composing and manipulating an image. A photographer can make basic changes to a picture from within the camera, but also may use photoediting software on a computer to significantly alter the look, feel and composition. "We can use computation to make the process better, both aesthetically and in terms of greater flexibility," explains Frédo Durand, a professor in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT in Cambridge, MA.
Researchers and engineers are now taking the concept further. They are designing different types of cameras, developing increasingly sophisticated algorithms, and using new types of sensors and systems to boldly go where no camera has gone before. The ability to record richer information about a scene and use powerful image enhancement techniques are redefining the field. "Computational photography and computational imaging are extremely vibrant areas," states Shree K. Nayar, professor of computer science at Columbia University in New York City.