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Xerox-developed technology that makes digital color images better gets fresh features in latest version

Press release from the issuing company

ROCHESTER, N.Y., July 13, 2006 - Pictures are one of the best reasons for printing in color. But pictures with bad color can be worse than no pictures and no color. While software exists to manually "fix" digital image problems, it requires time and a skilled craftsman. In the late 1990's, Xerox Corporation, which has some of the world's top scientists in the fields of digital imaging and color science, took up the challenge of developing a system that could automatically correct imperfect images without messing up good ones. Its researchers developed Automatic Image Enhancement technology, or AIE, which automated color correction in Xerox systems. The basic AIE algorithms work magic on pictures - brightening underexposed images, sharpening fuzzy prints, or burning the haze off a vacation scene to let the bright colors shine through. When originally introduced, AIE corrected the most common amateur photographer's mistakes. But with continuing innovations from Xerox scientists in Webster, N.Y., and Grenoble, France, the technology just keeps getting better and better. It now can correct the shortcomings found in images clipped from a Web page or compressed too tightly for a faster e-mail. And the newest version of AIE can work on specific problem spots and incorporates a new algorithm that can automatically determine whether an image will be improved prior to applying enhancements to those areas. AIE technology can be applied in the print driver on the user's computer, as a prepress service, or within printer software itself. In all cases, it analyzes the image and, if needed, it brews up a custom prescription of image processing elements and applies them to the image. Found only in Xerox digital systems, ranging from desktop color laser printers to 54-inch-wide color printers/plotters, AIE has just been added to the latest version of Xerox FreeFlowR Process Manager software, which is part of Xerox's FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection for commercial print providers. In this latest version, AIE not only fixes contrast in sections of photos but also includes features relevant to commercial printers who want to be able to fine-tune electronic images in portable document format workflows. Specifically, the new version includes: . Local Contrast Enhancement. Until now, AIE algorithms were applied to the whole image, making it lighter or darker, or adding or reducing contrast. But a common problem with photographs is "poor lighting," where only a section of an image is too dark or too light because of back lighting, combined indoor/outdoor scenes, strong shadows or flash photography. For cases where there is a problem in only a portion of the photo, Xerox scientists have developed a patented solution based on a combination of heuristic and machine learning approaches. The new technology is very fast and can automatically optimize an image's exposure region-by-region. It employs a "decision mechanism" to anticipate the effect of the enhancement and will only make the change when it is sure that the effect will be positive. The success of the algorithm has been validated by extensive user studies. Expert Interface. AIE was originally developed as a quick, simple "one-button" solution to improve print quality. For commercial printers who want more control over the appearance of their images, Xerox scientists have added an expert interface that allows print professionals to fine-tune contrast, sharpness, and lightness and darkness of the print. PDF Functionality. In prior implementations, AIE worked on images, which then were inserted in a PDF file for printing. The new version makes AIE convenient for print shop professionals because it manipulates images within the PDF file. "The important new applications for digital color printing, such as one-to-one marketing and short-run printing, demand that we reduce the time and skills required to create the document," says Reiner Eschbach, a Xerox research fellow. "Our Automatic Image Enhancement technology is part of Xerox's answer."