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Summary:

Quick, when I say iPhoto, you think of what. Apple, right? Difficult as it may be, forget Apple for a second and add the word "measure" as in iPhotoMEASURE. What is it? Well, what if I told you that you could use a digital camera, even […]

IphotomeasureQuick, when I say iPhoto, you think of what. Apple, right? Difficult as it may be, forget Apple for a second and add the word "measure" as in iPhotoMEASURE. What is it? Well, what if I told you that you could use a digital camera, even a cell-phone camera, along with some software to measure any items you can snap a picture of? The solution is the iPhotoMEASURE application that I just heard about. Although it’s really geared towards contractors, Realtors and the like, there’s a number of consumer applications that make this a compelling product.

DigitargetFirst off, the "secret sauce" of the solution is called a "DigiTarget". The DigiTarget gives everything in your photo a frame of reference; it’s a single sheet of paper with a 7.5 x 7.5-inch square on it. A 15-inch square version is also available for outdoor measurements. Simply print off a free DigiTarget, affix it to something in your photo scene and snap a pic. The iPhotoMEASURE software uses the DigiTarget to compute the measurements of items in your photo and the company claims that any distance in the picture can be measured with up to 99.5% accuracy. Conceptually, it makes sense since the software has that 7.5- or 15-inch frame of reference.

I can definitely see the benefit to contractors that need measurements to accurately quote a job or price materials. Same goes for those in real estate, interior design, etc. From a consumer standpoint, can you imagine heading to Home Depot or Lowes with a photo printout of your new home improvement project? I thought I impressed the Home Depot folks when I did something similar with OneNote Mobile and my UMPC, but I had to manually measure everything and then ink it on the picture.

How about furniture shopping? Snap a pic of your room measurements, bring your camera to the furniture store and click, click, click to your hearts content. When you get home, you can measure up the best pieces and see if they’ll fit; no tape measure needed.

On the FAQ page, you’ll see plenty of details about the software. I noticed that you can use a cell-phone camera but only for close up scenes. The company recommends a minimum of 2-megapixels up to around 15-feet; after that, you’re better off with 4-megapixels or greater. All of this accuracy and measuring goodness does come at a price: the software will set you back $99.99 if you download it; $20 more gets you the software on CD plus a few more goodies. The software is available for both PC and Mac.

How well do you think it works? I suspect it works well, but I’ve requested an evaluation copy. If I see that come my way, we’ll put it through the paces right here.

  1. Or you could try it the DIY way: make your own 5 x 5 square, put it in pics for reference, then use a calculator or Excel plus your image editing software of choice to do the same extrapolations that the software is doing (ie if the paper is 20 pixels wide in your picture, then each pixel is 1/4 inch).

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    1. could please send me a link better explaining your techni

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  2. Not so simple — doesn’t it have to do some processing to deal with perspective? It’s not so useful if you photograph a square rug and it tells you the close side of the rug is 8′, and the far side of the rug is 6′. In that example photo of a house, the surfaces are not all the same distance from the camera.

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  3. It’s nice that they’re selling software to the “common man”, but this is something contractors have been doing for ages. Get custom countertops made…the first thing you’re likely to see is someone stick little sheets full of varying size circles all along your cabinets and counter. Having multiple sheets neatly covers the issue of perspective as well. If they supported multiple reference cards throughout the image to help maintain consistency, i’d readily spend the $100. As it stands, it’s barely more than a toy.

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  4. does it take perspective into account at ALL?… who says that it can accurately measure an oil drill rig when the “reference” piece of paper is 10 feet in front of it? (as one very basic example)

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  5. 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.

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  6. While this is cool, it seems a lot to charge for a relatively simple piece of software. I wrote something called OpenTrack2d which I posted on SourceForge.net which basically does the same thing. Given that you have a calibration frame, you can track points in a video to determine relative positions, velocities and accelerations. It’s basically like VideoPoint, but with more options. Unlike iPhotoMeasure, it won’t give you the point to point measurements on clicking (you get them after the fact), but it would be exceedingly trivial to add this feature. The current users of OpenTrack2d are kinesiology students at West Chester University in PA.
    And yes, my software and iPhotoMeasure were written for different audiences – but that doesn’t change my point that iPhotoMeasure costs a lot for minimum capabilities.

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  7. Google Sketchup allows you to:
    1) import pictures
    2) size pictures and other objects by measuring an edge and typing a value (in distance) that the edge should be – the software will scale the model/pictures/etc. for you.

    Seems like you could steal this idea and use Google Sketchup (which is free) to do the same sort of thing, though you would not have the added benefit of processing for perspective.

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  8. SketchUp has a new feature that allows easy photo mapping onto objects – it will give the same measuring capability after it has been put together.

    Stuart

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  9. Interesting software but an unnecessary expense since there is a totally free image processing and measurement program, used by many scientists, called ImageJ. Java-based, available for either Macs or WinPCs, it is available via the Center for Imaging in Education (CIPE) at evisual.org. It is also available through that same website in a non-Java format as NIH Image for Macs or Scion Image for PCs. The only necessity is that, when one takes the photograph, there must be an item of known size (e.g. a meter stick) for setting the scale.

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  10. Let alone perspective — does this take into account barrel/pincussion distortion? A cheap digital camera on “wide angle” sucks for architecture shots. If it does take perspective into account then it must extrapolate it using straight lines in the picture, but that extrapolation would be affected by distortion.

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