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Measure Anything with a Camera and Software

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the clever-ideas dept.

208

Kevin C. Tofel writes "Using a simple concept, iPhotoMEASURE software can measure any objects you can take a picture of. Include a printout of a 7.5- or 15-inch square in the photo and the software can measure any distance or object in the pic to within 99.5% accuracy. Although geared towards contractors, there's any number of consumer usage scenarios as well. Enough to justify a $99 price tag? Jury's still out on that."

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208 comments

Expensive (1)

MartinJW (961693) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919872)

$99 is a bit damn steep if you ask me.

Re:Expensive (3, Insightful)

jackharrer (972403) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919912)

It targeted towards contractors, who will buy it from company's money or take from their taxes.
No so expensive if you think about it in this way.

Re:Expensive (4, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919980)

If they're really targeting contractors, $99 is a bit too cheap. The perception will be that if there is a $1000 program out there that can do the same thing, it must be better than this little $99 program. Never underestimate a business' ability to blow money.

Never under-price. (4, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920192)

They should make a $1299 "Professional" version, quick. It'll be the exact same product as the $99 version, just in a different color, and with a printed, spiral-bound manual.

It's definitely possible to under-price your product if you're not careful. Actually, having a $1299 version might even help drive sales of the $99 version, because people would perceive the $99 version as a sort of 'deal,' as in "hey, for $99 I'm getting 60% of the features of the $1300 version! That's great! I'll take three."

Re:Expensive (2, Funny)

Funkcikle (630170) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920562)

If they're really targeting contractors, $99 is a bit too cheap.
They should be targeting adult dating/hook-up websites like newbienudes.com. Let them install this software server-side, bolt it onto the picture uploading function and FINALLY all the problems regarding incorrect measurement will be solved! No more three hour drives just to get there and end up saying "Um...is that the WHOLE nine inches?".

Damn cheap in my book. (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919984)

My cousin does this manually, using pictures of job sites and items on known size, to estimate needs.

$99 is nothing. If it can save material purchased for a big job it will most likely pay for itself instantly, not counting all the time saved photographing and measuring that is now with manual processing afterward.

Re:Damn cheap in my book. (0, Troll)

luckymutt (996573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920040)

Regardless, some shmuck is gonna have to measure everything out by hand to make sure the siding is cut to correct size. But since it is not 100% accurate, then its trash. A GOOD contractor can stand in front of that house, (like in the example picture) with nought but a pad and pencil, can come up up with the same dimensions.

Guess there's a lot of "trash." (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920218)

But since it is not 100% accurate, then its trash.

You do know that's impossible, right? I could use a laser interferometer, and determine the distance between two objects down to a fraction of a nanometer, and it would still not be "100% accurate."

Re:Guess there's a lot of "trash." (1)

luckymutt (996573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920414)

Yes, I know that's impossible.. Since we are referring to contractors, it was meant to be presummed that I was speaking relatively. I can't think of many situations where the crown moulding needs to be trimmed as accurate as a nanometer. Let me re-phrase: Since it is not 100% accurate [i]compared with what their current accuracy standards are.[/i] Regardless, this thing is a piece of crap. They don't [i]know[/i] their market...they only think they do. If they acctually asked a professional in any field they thought this would be useful, they'd have been laughed at.

Re:Guess there's a lot of "trash." (2, Informative)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920846)

Really? Talk to this guy [slashdot.org] .

Re:Guess there's a lot of "trash." (1)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920504)

100% accurate is easy. Technically the software is 100% accurate if you round up.

100.00% accurate is harder and sometimes necessary. This software isn't even 100.0% accurate.

Re:Guess there's a lot of "trash." (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920550)

Yeah, well, I always round to the nearest 1000% percent.

Re:Damn cheap in my book. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920746)

But since it is not 100% accurate, then its trash. A GOOD contractor can stand in front of that house, (like in the example picture) with nought but a pad and pencil, can come up up with the same dimensions.
Bullshit. There is no way in hell that a contractor is going to look at a house from that distance and measure the windows and doors down to 1", unless he's the bionic man. You are talking out of your ass.

Re:Damn cheap in my book. (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920782)

You are wrong. The contractor could come up with usable estimates for the major objects, but this can do it for every object. I've done contracting and known some mighty fine ones and every damn one will say they won't stand by what they tell you without measurement.

Re:Damn cheap in my book. (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920852)

But since it is not 100% accurate, then its trash.

I GUARENTEE you, a homeowner would LOVE to see somthing like this compared to a guy in a suit who's "been doing this for years" walk around with a tape measure in the paint business.

Re:Damn cheap in my book. (0, Troll)

luckymutt (996573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921030)

Sure a homeowner would love it...
because its a gadget, not because it has any real value.

Just because a consumer is willing to drop $99 on something because it is shiny doesn't mean it isn't a useless piece of shit.

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920148)

I dunno, seems like they're giving it away, when you consider people will pay hundreds of dollars for MS Office when they can get OpenOffice for free.

Re:Expensive (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920360)

So short-sighted...

Let's say you have 10 projects in the next year where this software would save you 2 hours of manual labor on each project. If you paid that manual labor anything more than 5 dollars an hour, this would be worth the investment. I'm surprised they aren't charging more. Perhaps even making an online service out of it and charging per use.

Typical, though: "All software should be free!"

Re:Expensive (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920554)

pah, we had to write software to do this in the second year of my degree, and they're charging $99 for it?

Anyone fool enough to shell out that much for this deserves everything they get.

Re:Expensive (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920750)

Yeah, right. And you then released this software for the general public good?

Perhaps those who would buy it aren't blessed with your amazing talents. You know -- the ability to write a program such as this in under four hours? That's what a low end contractor gets -- ~25 hr.

Academia's lack of real world experience shows again.

Re:Expensive (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920774)

Especially considering it is easy to modify some openCV examples to get exactly the same results...

How Long Before... (1, Interesting)

waif69 (322360) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919880)

...someone writes an OSS version of this? Has anyone started on this yet?

Re:How Long Before... (1)

Falladir (1026636) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920296)

This seems to be a VERY clonable technology.

Doesn't sound like it's too complicated. (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920492)

It doesn't seem like it would be really too hard, if the software is just doing what I think it is.

The hardest part is just picking out the target from the photo. In most interior scenes, the target they're using would probably work pretty well (it's a white square with heavy black edges) although it seems like there are some backgrounds where locating it might be a problem. But there are, if I'm not mistaken, some OSS efforts to do things like automatic facial recognition, and that's a much more complex problem than picking a black-on-white box out. (Particularly if the center of the box is reflectorized, so that it's always 255/255/255 when a flash photo is taken.)

Once you've located the target, knowing it's actual size and how many pixels wide it is in the image, then you can let the user pick any two points elsewhere on the image (which must be in the same plane as the target, and basically perpendicular to the camera's film/sensor) and tell them how far the points are apart in reality. It's just multiplication at that point.

If you look at OSS image-processing software, there are applications around that do much more complex stuff than this: Hugin [sourceforge.net] , and Panorama Tools (the latter are what really do the heavy lifting) come immediately to mind. Compared to joining and sewing a panorama, this kind of measurement seems pretty easy, unless I'm missing something critical.

If I was recommending features for a measurement product, I think the key would be not to limit it to a particular target. Sure, a few printable targets, similar to the one used in TFA's commercical product, would be good for measurement of rooms and houses, but it would also be nice to use smaller things that are typically used for scale in macro photographs. E.g., dollar bills, quarters, width of a pencil, etc. Those would be tougher to automatically recognize, and would probably require some prompting by the user in order to pick out, but would probably appeal to a wider variety of users. Who hasn't seen an eBay photo and wondered what the exact dimensions of something were?

Kill Twofo! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17919896)

Twofo [twofo.co.uk] Is Dying

DC++ [dcpp.net] hub.twofo.co.uk:4144

It is official; Netcraft confirms: Twofo is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleagured University of Warwick [warwick.ac.uk] filesharing community when ITS confirmed that Twofo total share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all file sharing. Coming hot on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that Twofo has lost more share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Twofo is collapsing in complete disarry, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Student comprehensive leeching test.

You don't need to be one of the Hub Operators to predict Twofo's future. The hand writing is on the toilet wall: Twofo faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Twofo because Twofo is dying. Things are looking very bad for Twofo. As many of us are already aware, Twofo continues to lose users. Fines and disconnections flow like a river of feces [tubgirl.com] .

N00b Campus users are the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of their total share. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time Twofo sharers fool_on_the_hill and Twinklefeet only serves to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: Twofo is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

Sources indicate that there are at most 150 users in the hub. How many filelists have been downloaded? Let's see. 719. But 1621 IP addresses have been logged, and 1727 nicks have been sighted connecting to one user over the last term. How many searches are there? 600 searches in 3 hours. The highest sharer on campus, known as "firstchoice", or Andrew.Maddison@warwick.ac.uk in real life, was sharing over 1 TiB, despite working in ITS and not being on the resnet. He's only there so people off campus who think they're too good for bittorrent can continue to abuse the University's internet connection.

Due to troubles at the University of Warwick, lack of internet bandwidth, enforcements of Acceptable Usage Policies, abysmal sharing, retarded leechers, clueless n00bs, and ITS fining and disconnecting users, Twofo has no future. All major student surveys show that Twofo has steadily declined in file share. Twofo is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If Twofo is to survive at all it will be among p2p hardcore fuckwits, desperate to grab stuff for free off the internet. Nothing short of a miracle could save Twofo from its fate at this point in time. For all practical purposes, Twofo is dead.

Fact: Twofo is dying

Not practical. (1)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919898)

Yeah. I could *really* see your average general contractor using this.

Re:Not practical. (4, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920036)

I dunno. I work as an engineer and I'm thinking something like this could be really useful.

No matter how many times you go out to a job site to measure and verify things, something always comes up that requires you to go back. For this reason, we take a lot of pictures in hopes that the camera will catch something we might not be looking for at the time.

I can't begin to count how many times I've counted bricks in those pictures to estimate distances. If I had software that could look at the image and provide measurements with 99.5% accuracy, that would be extremely useful. At $99 it would probably pay for itself after three or four uses just on time saved going back out to the site.
=Smidge=

Re:Not practical. (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920358)

You probably already have it.

Autocad. and other CAD programs can. you open the photo as a background or item and then measure one known item. write down the numbers from that . now measure all that you are after (ASSUMING you have good lenses and are not using a fisheye or wide andlge lens that will screw it up.)
and a simple calculator can do the rest for you.

I can give you all the dimensions in the photo within 5 minutes doing that. accuracy at the edges drops fast because most contractors have crappy point and shoot cameras (Yes your $500.00 point and shoot is crappy) and not a decent DSLR and a non zoom good lens.

Honestly I though every integrator and tech-savvy contractor knew how to do this. We estimate wire based on the same system. we go and take photos of the rooms with studs only and estimate with the photos and autocad.

Re:Not practical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920704)

Your approach is a whole hell of a lot more expensive then the software. AutoCad is godawfully expensive. $99 is pretty reasonable. And, presumably, it takes less then 5 minutes and no special skill to use this software, as opposed to a 2-year degree to be good at autocad.

Re:Not practical. (2, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921048)

Contractors probably already own Autocad or something like it, not to mention probably have the requisite knowledge to perform this rather trivial function as well. If not, they won't be my contractor.

photogrammetry (2, Informative)

StoatBringer (552938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920822)

Just find a company which provides photogrammetry software. I worked for one once (Alias ltd. in the UK). They take a stereoscopic pair of photos of a site (with markup stickers here and there) and the software builds a 3D CAD model of all the pipes, vents, supports, walls etc.

Re:Not practical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920872)

As an example, custom counter-top manufactures have been using similar technology for years. You install your cabinets, the contractor clamps these inside and outside corner references on the cabinets and takes a few pictures. The contractor runs those pictures thru software that auto-recognizes the corner references, creates the layout and proper dimensions. A machine cuts the substrate or stone to size. A couple weeks later, you have a perfectly fitted counter top. This doesn't really save counter top makers time, but it does make measurements more accurate.

A larger system to measure large buildings, etc would definitely save time and be more accurate.

How is this news for nerds? (-1, Troll)

timecop (16217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919930)

When did Slashdot become 'advertisements for shitty products that aren't really all that unique or important'?
Oh, wait...

Re:How is this news for nerds? (0, Troll)

ubuwalker31 (1009137) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921056)

Because now they can measure there penis using a camera.

Unfortunately... (4, Insightful)

avalys (221114) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919934)

I thought this was some kind of cool new perspective-based algorithm or something, but it turns out you have to be able to get close enough to the object to stick a label of known dimensions on it. The software justs compares the size of the label with the size of the object you're measuring. I'm not paying $99 for that.

There are already a number of laser rangefinders with compasses built-in that can do the same thing using simple trig.

Re:Unfortunately... (2, Informative)

jbreckman (917963) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919994)

It might have to do something trickier. If you look at their example:

http://jkontherun.blogs.com/.shared/image.html?/ photos/uncategorized/iphotomeasure.jpg

They measure objects that are two distances from the camera. (The garage, and the windows on the house which are a few feet forward). Since they are closer, they would appear to the camera as slightly larger, making the software inaccurate. So, either the software doesn't work, or it does do some trickery.

I think that's the marketing dept. (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920284)

That link doesn't work (at least, not for me). I think it looks at the referer and won't let you deeplink to the image. You have to go through the blog to see it:
http://jkontherun.blogs.com/jkontherun/2007/02/how _to_measure_.html [blogs.com]

Looking at that photo, I'm not buying that it can measure all those distances from a single photo. I think there is some advertising hyperbole going on here. I get that you could measure all those distances and dimensions, using multiple photos -- one each of every flat surface, moving the target each time so it's the same distance from the camera as the surface being measured -- but I don't think it would work from a single photo.

The only way you could measure everything from a single photo like that, would be if the camera was stereoscopic, or had some other form of depth perception. Otherwise, as you noticed, there's no way for it to know that the window that's closer to the camera is not really bigger than the garage door that's further away.

Re:I think that's the marketing dept. (2, Informative)

hobbes75 (245657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920690)

I agree. There is no way the software can figure out the measurements, unless their "DigiTarget" sheet is in the same plane as all the points between which distances need to be measured. It could in (science fiction like) theory use assumptions of orthogonal planes (walls to floor) to help but this is not a solved problem in AI and even then would not work in general.
So the "hard" part in this software remains to automatically (hopefully it is automatic) find the DigiTarget and calculate a "more or less affine" transformation matrix and then calculate the distance with regard of the found matrix (this does not resolve distorions and assumes a pinhole camera, but there is not much else doable with only one picture and a small known target).
The situation would change if they took at least two pictures of the scene from two slightly different positions, with at least one including the "DigiTarget". Then all the information would be available to really do the measurement as long as the user defines the distance that is to be measured in at least two of the pictures (and there are 5 additional points that can be matched between the two pictures, which is typically automatically feasible)

Re:I think that's the marketing dept. (2, Informative)

ArtuRocks (956605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920734)

A comment [blogs.com] posted to that blog addresses that:

Yes - it must take foreshortening into account. Briefly what it does is calibrate the camera's parameters (field-of-view for one) from the reference DigiTarget image which has known dimensions, and generates a perspective transformation from that. This should be a simple exercise in computer vision. Notice how it only measures horizontal and vertical lengths. This is because these have particularly special invariance properties under a perspective transformation. This leads me to deduce that the DigiTarget must always be shot head-on for this thing to work at all.

Re:Unfortunately... (1)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920388)

There may well be some trickery to perform perspective correction when the film/sensor plane is not parallel to the target plane, but I cannot see any way this could make accurate measurements on a plane outside the target.

Re:Unfortunately... (1)

jlf278 (1022347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920428)

I thought this was some kind of cool new perspective-based algorithm or something, but it turns out you have to be able to get close enough to the object to stick a label of known dimensions on it.

Well if the price of rulers ever top $150, then these will be HIGHLY competitive at $99.

Re:Unfortunately... (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920450)

"The software justs compares the size of the label with the size of the object you're measuring. I'm not paying $99 for that."

I thought $99 was a little steep to start with, but after seeing your post and reading the website and determining you're right, you have to run up to the object, stick the label on, then run back to where you were to snap the picture. That makes the software darn near worthless, for $99 they could probably make an entire camera with built-in rangefinder to figure out distance from object then it's all trig from there without any stupid sticky labels.

Plus the fact they went with "iPhoto" makes me have serious doubts about the quality of the product. Any comany using i(Blank) for a product besides Apple is a poser trying to leech off Apple's success and 9 times out of 10 the product sucks.

Good news (2, Funny)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919956)

... for all of us guys. The subject of how to measure with a with a tape measure has long been a controversial one, and thus the size debate has been marred by a lack of common consensus. This gadget will settle things once and for all!

How to measure that square? (1)

jfisherwa (323744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919958)

Now where am I supposed to come up with a 7.5" square? I threw away my tape measure.

Re:How to measure that square? (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920168)

You hold your camera against a surface, draw two lines to indicate its length. Take the picture with those two lines in view, look up the dimensions of that particular camera to use a reference measurement.

What If (1)

Fist! Of! Death! (1038822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919978)

You take a photograph of a bathroom or kitchen containing hundreds of square tiles? Digi Target that baby...
Seriously people - buy a measuring tape. Its not that difficult.

OSS equivalent? (1)

Slithe (894946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919982)

This is rather cool. Is there anything like this in the OSS world? I would not be surprised if there is soon!

A more effective solution (2, Insightful)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919992)

Would be to project a laser 'shape' from the camera to compute distance, and keep the entire measurement operation localized within the camera.

Just a thought.

Re:A more effective solution (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920108)

Cameras like that already exist.

Re:A more effective solution (1)

Dersaidin (954402) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920600)

That would require a special camera. This software can be used with pictures from any camera. Just put the square in there somewhere (not hard to make if it doesn't come with one).

99.5% accurate, on a construction site? (1)

jrsjrsjrs (947704) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920032)

Cute gimmick. For framing, if it doesn't need to be all that accurate, +/- 2", why take the time? For finishwork, if it has to be within 1/8", better to take dimensions directly to account for things being out of plumb or not quite square.

Re:99.5% accurate, on a construction site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920630)

Yes, but for something like computational analysis, this would allow a more direct input of an object's dimensions that would be closer to accurate. I'm envisioning this for CFD applications. My company already uses a similar program that is designed to take a scanned in graph and locate the points on it. You have to specify an x-axis and y-axis origin and reference measurement to start with, but it will then calculate the location of any point in it based on those dimensions. If this could take a photo and estimate depth to give a 3-D location/dimensions, that would be great.

Cost prohibitive?!? (5, Insightful)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920038)

Honestly, I could see almost every contractor getting into this...

I think people need to realize that this will be it's major market as surveying costs run in the $20~30/hour range for a single trained surveyor... this is skilled work. If companies can instead send out untrained (or barely trained) individuals at $10-$15/hr with much less time spent in calculation and only a $100 sunk cost into the software there is no reason they wouldn't choose this method. Very good news for contractors, bad for surveyors.

The price is almost low enough for consumers with a need to calculate distances relatively regularly to purchase this software.

This reminds of me of out-sourcing to India. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920372)

I think people need to realize that this will be it's major market as surveying costs run in the $20~30/hour range for a single trained surveyor... this is skilled work. If companies can instead send out untrained (or barely trained) individuals at $10-$15/hr with much less time spent in calculation and only a $100 sunk cost into the software there is no reason they wouldn't choose this method. Very good news for contractors, bad for surveyors.

No, this may be good news for truly talented surveyors. It seems a lot like the situation involving software developers and outsourcing to India. At first the situation will look bleak: some other people are offering the same services as the professionals, for only a fraction of the price. Soon enough, some managers will choose to go the cheaper route.

When it came to software, the industry eventually found out that Indian developers just plain couldn't put together a usable product. Often times, what they did produce was virutally useless. I've heard of situations where those off-shore developers took code from a number of open source projects with incompatible licenses, merged it all together in a basically non-functional monstrosity, and then expected to get paid for putting out that piece of pure shit.

Of course, this was a great thing for us North American and European developers. It made those of us with even just decent software development skills look great, when compared to the Indian developers. We could end up asking more, since the smarter managers learned our true value.

The same thing could happen for surveyors. After hiring a few untrained people to perform surveying using this device, it's no doubt that there would be major and costly problems. Building foundations would be unaligned, for instance, and professional surveyors would need to be called in to get things measured correctly. Now they'll be in a better position to demand more pay for the same service they were providing before, as the smart managers will realize that their other option will make major mistakes, and be even more costly than just paying a professional to do it correctly.

I doubt it (3, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920046)

If I take a picture of an arch with something in the background of the arch there's no way it's going to be able to measure both the foreground and background distances without any knowledge of the distance the objects are away from the camera etc...
You'd have to stick known distance marks on everything in your picture.

Re:I doubt it (1)

jordan314 (1052648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920674)

I agree. At first I thought this would be an interesting way to render 3d objects with photos mapped onto them, but this software only produces useful 'facts' about a photo, not an extensive set of data on everything in the photo. Sure it may be able to tell how tall a house is in the distance, but put a car visible in front or behind it and it has no idea how tall the car is without another point of reference.

Impossible (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920054)

You can not measure arbitrary dimensions in a single photograph using a single calibration target. If you stick the target onto a surface you can measure dimensions on that surface, i.e. parallel to the target, but you would have no information about locations not on the plane of the target. If you are not convinced just think of it this way - any point in an image can be at an arbitrary depth.

This means two things, either you provide the software with more information or you need a calibration target for each plane of measurements in the image. For the latter case I could write the software in an afternoon (Excluding testing, writing a manual etc.), and already have my own research tool that does precisely that, so $99 is extremely steep. For the first case such a piece of software would not be 'easy to use' nor quick, though probably worth the $99 and your money back for mis-selling.

Sounds to me like that company's marketing team is overselling there product, and /. fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Re:Impossible (1)

Bob Loblaw (545027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921044)

You are correct ... with one picture you don't have any depth information on any point other than where the known target is. It is not impossible if they take more than one picture from different perspectives though.

However, nothing on the website indicates how many pictures you need to take for their software to work. I suspect it is not just as simple as taking one picture and being done with it. Digital photogrammetry generally takes a fair amount of post-processing.

tax on people who can't do math (3, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920060)

When asked why math helps, this is the the sort of situation I point to. What this software does is nothing more than apply similarity. Researchers have been doing this for years by placing a rule in every photo so that, no matter how the photo is resized, the dimensions are always knows. Measure the line, measure the feature, divide the two, and multiply by the length of the line. In any case, more sophisticated software is available for free, like tracker at sourceforge.

But what really gets me is the claim in the advert, claims that hyperbolic if not outright lies. I can easily construct a photo in which a house appears to be the same dimensions of the squares. One more effective way to do what the software is proposing is to know the dimensions of a feature that is part of the object you wish to measure, and use similarity to approximate the dimensions of the smaller or larger object.

Re:tax on people who can't do math (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920140)

I can easily construct a photo in which a house appears to be the same dimensions of the squares.
No you can't. There's a sticker that you slap on a surface, which gives an absolute measure of size. On a small, but identical model house, the sticker would be huge.

Re:tax on people who can't do math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920796)

Forced Perspective [wikipedia.org]

Re:tax on people who can't do math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920786)

Can you provide a URL for the tracker project on sourceforge?

Re:tax on people who can't do math (1)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920812)

Do you have a link or a more complete name other than "tracker"? Tracker returns 433 items at sourceforge.

Two dimensions only ??? (1, Informative)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920064)

Are you fucking kidding me, that is childs play.

First of all, If I can put a sticker on it, why not just measure it ? Second of all, for this to be at all usefull it would need to be able to measure in the micro (100ths of a millimiter) or macro (100s of meters) domain, and also be able to compute the size of any object in the distance based upon the size of an object in the foreground. I thought I was going to read how some clever mofo had figured out paralaxing or something, but no. Basically this is $99.00 for a pixel counter !

Stupid.

Re:Two dimensions only ??? (1)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920430)

Basically this is $99.00 for a pixel counter !
Indeed. I would be more impressed if it took images from multiple angles and spit out a wireframe mesh. Now that would be useful.

I think many are missing the point (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920068)

From now on any girl I meet online will be required to send me a picture with one of the squares in frame. No more "just a few extra pounds" for me.

Re:I think many are missing the point (2, Funny)

antoinjapan (450229) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920352)

She better hope she didn't photocopy the sticker up 200% first.

Re:I think many are missing the point (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920676)

most digital photos do have all the needed info their, the f-stop, the camera make/model/... so if you have the lense dimensions, and she is in focus, it should be possible to calculate all dimensions sans square.

Now, calculating how stretched the elastic is holding everything back is going to be much more difficult.

Huray for slashvertisements! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920070)

Hurray for proportions and high school trig!

Can't work as advertised (1)

JohnPM (163131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920082)

Hang on, how can this thing possibly work?
By putting the reference printout in the image you can determine the distance and orientation of the reference, but how does that tell you about the distance to other points in the image?
It can only work for points in the same plane as the reference printout, such as the features on a flat wall.
It cannot tell you anything about the dimensions of a complex object like a car.

There are systems I've seen that can do similar jobs using video or multiple images to triangulate the 3D structure, but the FAQs on the iPhotoMEASURE website repeatedly refer to taking a single photo.

For $99? I'll stick to a tape measure.

Re:Can't work as advertised (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920226)

Not that I disagree entirely with your post (and I didn't RTFA), but what's stopping the software from using multiple target squares for different depths from the camera? The 'trickery' then would be to look for division lines. Then again, there isn't any accounting for stuff at an angle either. *shrug*. Useful for really quick rough estimates, I guess.

Re:Can't work as advertised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920310)

Now to make this post on /. worth anything, please give us some names or links.

Re:Can't work as advertised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920454)

More to the point, it COMPLETELY ignores the geometric distortions present in nearly every photographic lens.

Frankly, this is bollocks.

$99 seems too cheap (1)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920084)

Seems like a piece of software that would only be useful in a few applications, but VERY useful in those applications.

It's not going to be useful to someone who needs precise measurements, like a contractor. Those people will use a measuring tape, which is more than 99.5% accurate when used properly.

But for estimators and appraisers this sounds like a killer app. Usually one would charge a lot more than $99 for such a niche application. Because of its niche status, there will not be as much competition from other software vendors. And for the intended customer, it is likely to become a must-have item.

Of course, the more they charge, the more likely it is that competitors will materialize.

Worst name ever... (1)

andyukguy (928900) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920156)

"iPhotoMEASURE" ? Sheesh... They might as well have gone all out: iPhotoMeasure X 2.0 BETA I hope the folks at KDE don't do the obvious when they make their open source equivalent.

Waste of money! (5, Informative)

robkeeney (1061032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920158)

All it does is count pixels. Take the picture with the known size block in it, then count how many pixels the block takes up: that's your dots per inch -- for objects the same distance away as the known size image. I read somewhere that the Japanese (I think) used to do this at musical instrument trade shows, by wearing a 1 cm square tie tack and taking photos of each other holding instruments. They could get the dimensions of the instrument from the photos that way, and make great cheap knock-offs.

Uh oh (0, Offtopic)

Ace905 (163071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920182)

I hope sites like adultfriendfinder and lavalife don't incorporate this software into their user-options.

wait a minute ...

yes I do, I do hope sites like that make this feature available to their users. .... <runs away>

---
adult friend finder? [douginadress.com]

Brand (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920184)

iAmTiredOfThisStupidBrandingTREND

It is a nice application... (1)

stormeru (1027946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920242)

...but does it also measure in the Metric system? I only see Imperial units in the article.

99.5% (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920258)

Considering the shoddy construction I've seen in many modern homes (mostly in the one I shouldn't have purchased), 99.5% measurement accuracy for a contractor would be an improvement to today's state of the art. Maybe they could come up with a hangover or coke filter for the software to even out the playing field of man vs machine.

Seriously though. Nut up and buy a friggin' tape measure.

I did something similar once... (2, Interesting)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920268)

I was taking a mechanical design class, and I wanted to know the coordinates of a bunch of screwholes in a mounting plate. I looked at it for a second, grinned, and darted to the nearest computer with a scanner -- as my teammates shook their heads (and micrometers) at me, saying "damnit, you're being impractical; it'll never work." (They thought I was too interested in theory and not enough in turning the cranks on lathes and mills; though we generally got along, we did have -- philosophical differences.) Scanning took a few seconds, after which I took a minute to note the pixel coordinates of the hole centers in a spreadsheet. Then I measured one edge of the part with the micrometer to get a pixel-to-inch scale, popped that number into the spreadsheet, and out came the x,y coordinates of all the holes in the part. When we CNCed the new plate with those hole locations, they all lined up with the part-to-be-mounted perfectly -- at which point they were pretty much forced to admit that maybe the kid knew what the hell he was doing!

I've thought since then that some software designed for the task (with edge-recognition algorithms, measurement features, etc) could turn consumer-grade scanners into decent reverse-engineering tools (for planar parts).

for police work? (1)

mrzaph0d (25646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920384)

I just heard something on the radio the other day that sounds the same and now i can't find any mention of it, but basically it said that cops have something very close to this type of software now and are using it to clear accident scenes quicker. instead of having to measure by hand every aspect of the accident, they take a decent amount of pictures and use the software to calculate distances.

Reminds me of the joke about ... (1)

danceswithtrees (968154) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920396)

Reminds me about the joke about how to measure the height of a building using a barometer. http://www.snopes.com/college/exam/barometer.asp [snopes.com]

Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper's shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.

But.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920586)

Does it run on linux?

hmm. (1)

alexultima (850430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920640)

anybody ever seen the italian job?

Cool if it works (1)

beerdini (1051422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920798)

This sounds pretty cool if it works as it is being described. Great asset for surveyors, construction, law enforcement and the neighborhood UFO photographer

Some optics nitpicking. (2, Insightful)

asadodetira (664509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920888)

There are some subtleties in measuring things from an image. Lenses distort images in a non-linear way, so just counting the pixels wouldn't be extremely accurate. One of the ways this can be improved is by calibration, basically taking a picture of a bunch of dots in a square array that covers the whole field of view, and do some math. Hey iPhotomeasure people, if you need a consultant for version 2, "with improved calibration" give me a call!!

Already there for video tapes (1)

elbrecht (211105) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920934)

There is this German company making the product "DartFish", that does that in Videos. Great for analyzing sports, like the distance and direction of steps before jumps.

Price tag is (afaik) well below 500. I only saw demos with sports people and I must say I was REALLY impressed (keep in mind the geek factor of sports men when it comes to IT).

Ah and it was like 2 or so years ago. I refrained from buying it, because I saw no use in bicycling and it was protected.

Don't ask me how this works, but I really thought it was impossible to do. You could even mark stuff in scenes and you could do it real time - like pulling the high jumper from the mattress in front of your laptop.

Maybe they figured it out. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17920942)

A lot of these comments are saying, "it's just a pixel counter", or, "it can't work", or "you would need to do xyz and it is not worth $99".

Of all those comments, how many people actually tried it to see what it can do? Maybe the people who designed it figured a lot of this out and have some way of doing the calculations to make it work properly.

Just because 'YOU' can't see how to do it, does not mean the designers could not figure it out.

Because I can't figure out how to determine trajectory through the earth's gravitational pull, to the vacuum of outer space, calculating where mars will be several months (maybe years) in advance, then mars gravitational pull, to land a rover on the surface does not mean no one else has figured it out.
Perhaps the people at NASA are just smarter than I when it comes to that, like it is possible the designers of the software might just be smarter than those who never seen the software work but claims it can't work.
Just a thought.

Could be great for accident investigations (1)

markdj (691222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920974)

I'm a Ski Patroller and we investigate accidents by taking pictures of the scene with little flags to mark distances. If the software works as well as described, this would allow us to just take pictures of the scene and not to have to carry flags and a tape measure. Investigations would be faster and easier.

ARToolkit (2, Interesting)

diodegod (70255) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921006)

It may be possible to get ARToolkit [sourceforge.net] to do this. It's dual-licensed under the GPL so it's OSS. If you want to play with it just get a v4l video capture device and print out the squares.

ARToolkit's been used by the University of South Australia to create ARQuake [unisa.edu.au] which is a lot of fun to use with the actual wearable computer :) Thanks Wayne Piekarski from UniSA for letting me play ARQuake on that thing at linux.conf.au in 2003.

I'm not sure if they used ARToolkit or something more in-house to make Tinmith [tinmith.net] , that looks really sweet.

Looks similar to ARToolKit (1)

mrj198 (1020499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921024)

The marker looks very similar to those used in the Open Source ARToolKit - http://www.equator.ecs.soton.ac.uk/projects/artool kit/ [soton.ac.uk] - it uses known-size 2D barcodes to get the 3D transform of the camera relative to the position of the marker. Would probably be straightforward to extend the ARToolKit to be able to do this.

The perspective version exists.... (1)

mpitcavage (655718) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921042)

I swear I remember reading an article about kitchen design software that placed a stick of known length in the picture (at an angle to give it depth). I think they took a few pictures from different angles or something so the software could understand "depth".

Why don't you get to work finding the reference for me, or if you can't just rewrite the software. Thanks.

free pixel counter from NIH (1)

park27094 (1061072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17921084)

The NIH has a free pixel counter you might try before shelling out $99 bucks. You'd just have to use a known size object, use the app to measure that object in pixels, then enter in the pixels/unit value. It's meant for biologists, but it has some nice features, like the ability to recognize objects ("particles") and 3d representation of pixel intensities. http://rsb.info.nih.gov/ij/docs/menus/analyze.html [nih.gov]
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