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Camera phones to de-throne the digital camera?

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Mobile phone manufacturers are increasingly looking to integrate established technology from the digital camera industry, and an Irish company is at the forefront.

Digital imaging researchers at Galway-based Fotonation have not only developed a faster method for wirelessly sending image and audio files between mobile phones, they have also pioneered red-eye reduction technology for camera phones, as well as face detection software.

Fotonation's marketing vice president Eric Zarakov said mobile phone makers were playing catch up with the digital camera industry in terms of integrating existing and new technologies.

"With camera phones and their flashes becoming increasingly powerful the phone makers have realised they have to migrate functions such as red-eye reduction onto their phones," Zarakov told ENN. "The volumes are huge. Compare around 80 million or 90 million digital cameras sold in 2006 to 500 million camera phones."

The firm, which specialises in communications technology for the digital camera industry, claims its new MTP-IP connectivity solution (Media Transfer Protocol-Internet Protocol) is 10 times faster than existing Bluetooth technology, and can transfer a 3 megapixel mobile phone photo to another phone, computer, or other device in only 0.3 seconds.

Fotonation, which is headquartered in California and runs a 35-strong research team in Galway, has also come up with what it claims is the world's first face detection system for camera phones. Its Face Tracker software can detect a subject's face at up to 30 frames per second. This means the camera phone can set optimal exposure settings, focus, and colour balance for the faces of up to eight subjects in a shot. The software will also allow face cropping on the phone and thumbnail image generation for use in a phone's address book.

Fotonation's current client list includes AOL, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Microsoft, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung, Sanyo, and Sony.

Zarakov said the company is currently in negotiations with new and existing clients about integrating its technology into the next generation of mobile phones.

"Bringing digital camera technology into phones is a symptom of a wider move as phones increase their functionality. Camera phones are now beginning to displace low-end digital cameras. Just look at who is now the biggest camera manufacturer in the world: I'd say Nokia."

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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