Dolby is widely known for their work in the audio market but the company used some of their time at Mobile World Congress to demonstrate their latest advancement in imaging technology. JPEG-HDR is designed to improve the quality of images shot with mobile phones by creating HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos, similar to what Apple has accomplished on the iPhone 4 / 4S and HTC’s upcoming One X.
HDR photography is often used to bridge the gap when trying to photograph a scene that contains poorly-lit areas and overexposed sections. To do this, the camera will take multiple photos of the same scene in rapid succession using a range of exposures. These images can then be stitched together on a computer using software to bring out the full range of detail that would otherwise be lost in the under or overexposed areas of your picture.
Dolby’s JPEG-HDR technology essentially does the same thing but it’s all automated within the phone or tablet. The output file is a tone-mapped version of the original that is backwards-compatible with standard photo viewers. The interesting part is that Dolby stores the ‘extra’ range as metadata in the file header where you’d normally find camera data stored. This allows users to go back and adjust the exposure afterwards using compatible software.
The technology was originally developed by Greg Ward and Maryann Simmons during their time at BrightSide Technologies. The company was ultimately acquired by Dolby Laboratories in 2007 for $28 million.
Dolby has signed a deal with Qualcomm to license the technology in various tablets and smartphones while an unnamed SoC maker will also use it in upcoming products.