NexOptic Technology Corp. joins Arm AI Partner Program

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

 

2020-12-02

From the primitive scratchings of ancient cave dwellers, to the super-high-resolution images of far-off galaxies captured by modern telescopes, human beings have always been obsessed with pictures.

The history of photography is the progression of society’s ability to freeze an image in time, using technology to gradually improve its quality. The word photography is based on the Greek “photos” and “graphe” which together means “drawing with light”.

While decent-quality photos today are instantly available with the touch of a button on any smart phone, early photography was a laborious process that often delivered poor results.

Picture-making dates back to antiquity with the discovery of two principles – camera obscura image projection, and the observation that certain substances can be altered by exposure to light.

Camera obscura, the phenomenon that occurs when an image is projected through a small hole onto an opposite surface, was found in the writings of Aristotle and Chinese scholars, dating back to the 4th century BC. Until the 1700s, camera obscura was mainly used for studying optics and astronomy, including to safely watch solar eclipses without damaging the eyes. However, there was no way to store an image.

In 1816, inventor Nicéphore Niépce began experimenting with photography, by exposing light to different materials on a plate, such as bitumen and pewter. Niépce took what is known as the first photo using a homemade camera with silver chloride-covered paper. ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’, the first surviving photograph, is housed in the permanent collection of the University of Texas-Austin. It took more than eight hours of exposure to develop.

In 1839 Louis Daguerre, an associate of Niépce, created a photographic process using a daguerrotype. It involved taking a sheet made of copper and coated with silver iodide, that when exposed to light created on image. The daguerrotype is usually thought of as the first camera.

Landmark inventions in the field of photography include the first gelatin dry plate, created by Richard Leach Maddox, which made the tripod obsolete and ushered in the era of hand-held cameras. Over the years cameras gradually decreased in size, from the Leica model commercialized after World War I, to Polaroid, which invented the first instant-picture camera in 1948. Polaroid cameras were the most popular models to own during the 1960s.

A significant development in photo processing came in 1885, when George Eastman began manufacturing paper film. He later created the Kodak camera, which consisted of a fixed focus lens and a single shutter speed. Equipped with enough film for 100 pictures, these cameras required Kodak to process the photos and to reload the film after each roll. Despite being relatively high-tech for the time, Kodak cameras were affordable and allowed for the beginning of mass-marketed photography.

The dilemma of being able to see images in the distance beyond the range of the human eye was a problem first tackled by scientists in northern Europe in 1608-09. Although eyeglasses were being manufactured and worn in Italy in the 13th century, it wasn’t until 400 years later that the first record of a telescope came from a patent filed by a Dutch spectacle-maker in 1608. These early telescopes were composed of a convex and a concave lens; they did not invert the image. Hans Lippershey’s early design only had 3X magnification.

Venetian inventor Galileo Galilei improved upon the “Dutch perspective glass”, making telescopes of increased power, eventually allowing 30X magnification. With this device he discovered the satellites of Jupiter, saw hills and valleys on the Moon, the phases of Venus and spots on the Sun. Similar to opera glasses, Galileo’s telescope used an arrangement of lenses to magnify objects.

A new design was introduced by Sir Isaac Newton in 1704. Instead of glass lenses, he used a curved mirror to gather light and reflect it back to a point of focus. Improvements to the first models included the Short telescope, created by Scottish optician and astronomer James Short in 1740, states ThoughtCo.:

It was the first perfect parabolic, elliptic, distortionless mirror ideal for reflecting telescopes. James Short built over 1,360 telescopes.

The reflector telescope that Newton designed opened the door to magnifying objects millions of times, far beyond what could ever be achieved with a lens, but others tinkered with his invention over the years, trying to improve it.

Newton’s fundamental principle of using a single curved mirror to gather in light remained the same, but ultimately, the size of the reflecting mirror was increased from the six-inch mirror used by Newton to a 6-meter mirror -- 236 inches in diameter. The mirror was provided by the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Russia, which opened in 1974.

The first modern telescopes were designed in the early 1900s for precision photographic imaging and were located at high-altitude, clear sky locations. They include the 60-inch Hale telescope and the 100-inch Hooker telescope, both positioned at the Mount Wilson Observatory, California.

The 1980s saw the introduction of two new technologies for building larger telescopes and improving image quality — active optics and adaptive optics. During the 1990s, a new generation of giant telescopes using active optics began with the construction of the Keck telescopes in 1993, with at least seven more to follow. 

Binoculars, which consist of two similar telescopes, one for each eye, mounted on a single frame, first appeared when above-mentioned Hans Lippershey was asked to build a binocular version of his telescope in 1608. However, unlike a (monocular) telescope, binoculars give users a 3D image — the merged viewpoints produce an impression of depth. 

Early binoculars employed Galilean optics, using a convex objective and a concave eyepiece lens. However this design only had a narrow field of view and was not capable of very high magnification. Credit for the first modern prism binocular is given to Ignazio Porro, whose 1854 Italian patent used a prism erecting system. It was later refined by the Carl Zeiss company in the 1890s. These binoculars use a pair of prisms in a Z-shaped configuration to display the image. They offer wide, objective lenses that are well separated and offset from the eyepieces, giving a better depth sensation. An alternative design, using roof prisms, created an instrument that is narrower and more compact than Porro prisms.

The first digital camera was invented in 1988 and made public three years later, when Kodak released the Kodak DCS, the first in a long line of digital cameras. According to Wikipedia, It wasn't until the adoption of the CCD (charge-coupled device) that the digital camera really took off. The CCD became part of the imaging systems used in telescopes, the first black-and-white digital cameras in the 1980s. Color was eventually added to the CCD and is a usual feature of cameras today.

In fact the technology for creating and storing digital images has been around since 1920, when British inventors Harry Bartholemew and Maynard McFarlane created the Bartlane cable picture transmission system. Using this system, digitized newspaper images could be transmitted between London and New York via submarine cable lines, in under three hours. The photos initially had five gray tones, that increased to 15 in 1929.

Digital imaging progressed in the 1960s and 70s, largely to improve upon the operational weaknesses of film cameras. While testing portable equipment for naval aircraft, two engineers working at Automation Industries in California co-invented the first apparatus to generate a digital image in real time.

A landmark for the industry came in 1976 with the launch of KH-11 KENNEN, the first American spy satellite to use electro-optical digital imaging.

Today, digital photography has replaced pictures made using traditional film cameras, eliminating processing labs and allowing consumers to create their own images using more and more advanced computer hardware and software. The Internet has greatly expanded the reach of digital photography, allowing digital photos to be viewed, edited and shared worldwide. Photo-based sites such as Flickr and Instagram are wildly popular. They allow users to document and share images of their daily lives in a way that would have been impossible in the previous universe of film-only photography.

The explosion in the number of digital photos taken every day is increasing the demand for more accurate and visually pleasing images. However, photos captured by cameras and image sensors are inevitably degraded by “noise” — in technical terms, the random variation of brightness or color information — which deteriorates the image quality.

How many times have you taken a shot with your smart phone, especially in low-light conditions, then immediately deleted it because the picture quality was so poor? Not enough light makes the photo look blurry or pixelated.

Noise reduction is a longstanding problem in the imaging industry, and an active area of research and development. 

Classic “de-noising”, done to restore the photo, can blur fine details, or involve costly techniques that require specialized hardware.

These methods are limited by the fact that they don’t take advantage of developments in computer vision — an exciting new field that is helping to imbue computers with a high-level understanding of the information contained in digital images or videos.

Also, most low-light modes are unsuitable for video; this is especially true for smart phone cameras. They rely on taking multiple short exposures and combining them to create a single image.

NexOptic Technology Corp. (TSXV:NXO, OTCQB:XOPF, FSE:E3O1)

By comparison, NexOptic’s ALIIS is perfectly suited to images and video.

Short for All Light Intelligent Imaging Solution, ALIIS is a “neural network” developed by NexOptic Technology Corp. (TSXV:NXO, OTCQB:XOPF, FSE:E3O1) It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to embed itself into an image sensor, to instantly produce sharp, low-noise imagery.

Using any image sensor, photos and videos are corrected in a fraction of a second using machine learning and edge processing.
ALIIS learns from tens of millions of example images, including their edges, textures, lighting and patterns. It stores this information in its vast neural network, applies its learning, then instantly processes the image.

Pioneered by NexOptic, ALIIS technology is applicable to multiple technology sectors - everything from smart phones, precision manufacturing, security applications, smart cities, drones, satellites, autonomous vehicles, video scaling, computer vision, facial recognition, object detection and more.

Functionally, ALIIS is able to correct any image and video captured using sensors. To do this, it learns the textures, lighting and patterns of thousands of example images and stores the information in its network, thus creating a virtuous cycle of a constantly improving image enhancement system.

It’s at the absolute cutting-edge of artificial intelligence,” NexOptic Chairman Rich Geruson said in a recent interview with Ahead of the Herd when introducing the company’s technology.

In fact, it could even be considered a “foundational artificial intelligence platform,” said Geruson, who previously held executive positions at Nokia, IBM, Toshiba and McKinsey & Co.

Like all revolutionary AI technologies, NexOptic’s ALIIS leverages the power of machine learning to enhance images along a variety of dimensions.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, ALIIS radically improves low-light performance, allowing users to see images and videos under extreme low-light conditions. ALIIS also uses visible light to capture color and texture that other technologies cannot, as they do not employ the visible spectrum.

Secondly, ALIIS dramatically reduces motion blur, which is critical when viewing moving images.

Thirdly, for viewing images at a distance, ALIIS enhances image stabilization by allowing faster shutter speeds.

Lastly, ALIIS significantly reduces the file and bandwidth requirements for storage and streaming, which Geruson says from his experience has “enormous value” to a variety of high-growth market segments.

In addition to these end-user benefits, there are several production benefits offered by ALIIS since it enables optics that are more compact, lighter weight and lower cost.

NexOptic has also given binoculars — which haven’t changed much since they were invented over 150 years ago — a makeover. The company’s DoubleTake prototype blends binocular with smart phone technology, inviting the viewer to experience binocular vision in a brand new way. With 10X digital zoom and a wide field lens, DoubleTake delivers outstanding 4K video and high-resolution photos. Users can instantly change from a wide view to a narrow view. Unlike regular binoculars, images can easily be seen by more than one set of eyes, opening the door to educational or military applications, to name two uses. The screen can also be shared with other mobile phones. With these “smart” features, NexOptic expects DoubleTake to compete with the highest-end binoculars and DSLR cameras.


CES 2019: NexOptic DoubleTake - Binoculars Reimagined

This week, NexOptic announced that it has joined the Arm AI Partner Program, an initiative focused on creating and nurturing strategic alliances that enhance the Arm ecosystem, and simplifying the deployment of machine learning and AI on intelligent endpoint devices. With Arm's ecosystem of thousands of partners, customers can go to market faster with products that customers demand. For NexOptic, joining the Arm AI Partner Program means immediate expansion opportunities for ALIIS within the vast Arm Internet of Things (IoT) network.

The British semiconductor and sofware company designs Arm processors (CPUs) and other chips; software develoment tools; and system on a chip (SoC) infrastructure and software. Based in Cambridge, UK, with offices worldwide, Arm is considered to be the market leader for processors in mobile phones, tablet computers and smart televisions. Almost all modern mobile phones and personal digital assistants contain ARM chips, making them the most widely used 32-bit microprocessor family in the world.

Acquired in 2016 by Japan's SoftBank Group, on Sept. 13, 2020 NVIDIA Corp. announced its intention to buy Arm from SoftBank for US$40 billion.

According to the Nov. 30 news release, NexOptic and Arm share a common vision to bring differentiated, scalable, and highly optimized AI software solutions to multiple markets — from cars to smartphones and laptops to IoT edge devices. The companies will closely collaborate as NexOptic continues to expand the available feature sets on its ALIIS™ (All Light Intelligent Imaging Solutions) AI for imaging. 

Significant segments of the consumer and business electronics industries run on Arm®-based technology, and the future of edge-based AI, also known as TinyML, is enabled by the architectures and core technology developed by Arm. 

“With membership in the Arm AI Partner Program, we look forward to exploring what is possible around the integration and functionality of ALIIS,” said Paul McKenzie, CEO of NexOptic Technology Corp. “Arm delivers remarkable IoT solutions to their partners and customers. They continuously drive the industry into what were previously thought to be unreachable territories; we are thrilled to be a part of it.”

The news release goes on to say:

While NexOptic and each original equipment manufacturer (OEM) retain control over the choice to license ALIIS, the Arm optimized version of ALIIS will significantly reduce the integration cost to device makers making it easier and faster to implement NexOptic’s state-of-the-art solutions. Many global OEM customers who are partners of Arm require premium imaging enhancement and will have direct access to NexOptic’s industry-leading machine learning imaging solutions optimized for use on Arm platforms.

Conclusion

The field of digital imaging has come a long way since the first cameras, telescopes and binoculars created the tools for facilitating later advancements in photography and astronomy.

As far as the technology has progressed, it has a lot further to go, thanks to artificial intelligence and the AI sub-field of computer vision – clearly the next frontier in image processing.

Through ALIIS and DoubleTake, both market disruptors, NexOptic is plunging head-long into the future with technologies that vastly improve both image/ video quality and the viewer's experience. 

NexOptic Technology Corp.
TSXV:NXO, OTCQB:NXOPF, FSE:E301
Cdn$0.56 2020.12.01
Shares Outstanding 147,296,150
Market cap Cdn$86.8m
NXO website

 

Richard (Rick) Mills
aheadoftheherd.com
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