Monday, May 30, 2011

The secret to an unforgettable? Persons or objects, and a few landscapes

Dozens and dozens of shots to capture the falls of Niagara, the Yellowstone Park or the views of the Dolomites, to secure the holiday of hearts forever? Wasted effort, it seems, if there are half finished or friends with you too. Because what makes a memorable image is the presence of a human subject, and natural landscapes and views are forgotten more easily.

Scientific approach to deal with a subject so elusive and highly personal, given that the visual memory is very subjective, is a study - the first of its kind - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to be presented in June at the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern recognition, in Colorado Springs.

After which involved hundreds of volunteers were shown something like 10 thousand images, a group of neuroscientists at MIT, led by Professor Phillip Island and Aude Oliva, have come to establish a ranking quite accurate: the photos that remain most impressed - by the results of their study - are those in which people appear, followed by static interior scenes and objects, preferably incorporated in a range.

And the unforgettable landscapes? They ended up in the end, because, in most cases, are much more labile leaving a trace in our memory. Ansel Adams would have been hurt us: a supermarket shelf or a close-up of the balls at the bowling alley "stronger" of those wonderful views of America, carved in black and white? Well, researchers dell'avanguardistico Institute, Cambridge, USA, claim to have identified the objective characteristics, which explains why a picture is imprinted and not another, regardless of its pleasantness.

"A pleasant and memorable are two different things" Island states in fact, one of the first authors of the research. But the elements that we have set an image in mind, say the researchers, more or less common to all. So that allowed them to develop a computer algorithm that can sort photos based on their "rate of memorability." Certainly useful to anyone involved in photography professionally, and why not, who likes to put on Facebook shots of their travels.

Oliva and colleagues had already shown in previous work, that the brain can remember thousands of images with a very high level of accuracy. But not all pictures are unforgettable. To find out what makes them such, scientists at MIT have shown hundreds of people thousands of photos via computer, some of which were repeated.

The task of the study participants had to indicate, by pressing a key on the keyboard, the screen shows an image that had already seen. Based on the number of people who have correctly indicated the image was already having calculated its "memorability". In general, net of individual differences among the parties involved, the results were "very consistent and clear," said Oliva.

After collecting the data, the professor and his colleagues have built "maps of memorability" of each image, asking people to label all the objects within it. Maps that can be analyzed by a computer model to determine which are the key ingredients of the 'unforgettably. " In general, say the scientists, those who remain most impressed are the pictures in which people appear.

This is followed by images of human-sized spaces such as shelves for fruit and vegetable market, and zoom in on objects. Are rather less interesting landscapes and natural views, unless they do not contain strange or unexpected. "For scientific way, we come to a reality show almost self-evident," said Francesco Zizola, Italian photojournalist winner of several World Press Photo Award and many other international awards.

"The human being is an animal that owes its survival to various functions including the view, fundamental. Memorizing the appearance of other human beings can recognize the reliability or danger." For this the images representing other human subjects are stored more easily. "In this section 'primitive', bound, anthropologically, the need, in today's society, where the image is dominant, then you have additional items, but the data seems to confirm a full-blown reality," said Zizola.

To get to "distill" the algorithm can predict what an image will be ever memorable, were studied colors, shapes, even the distribution of boundaries within a shot, in relation to what this was easy to remember. It used statistical analysis, allowing the computer to identify whether applicants within a range of information.

In the offline world forever and especially social, one of the possible developments that researchers have been suggested is an application for the iPhone that would immediately indicate how much remains at the head of the viewer that the picture was just taken. The challenge here is to run the algorithm fast enough, says Island.

But one can also think of the development of new clinical trials to reveal more precisely which aspects of visual memory should fail in people who suffer from specific ailments, or even games to help train your memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment