VideoBrush-ing: Wide View

Video Valley Moves

Pyramid Vision Technologies

Universal Display Corp.

Siemens Research

Corrections or additions?

(This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

December 2, 1998. All rights reserved.)

Vision 2020 From Color TV to HDTV to . . ?

Color television was born in Princeton at RCA. Fifty

years later, RCA has turned into the Sarnoff Corporation, and

Princeton is still on the leading edge of television and video work.

Now it’s not just Sarnoff. More companies in the area have moved here,

perhaps attracted by Sarnoff research, and headline writers sometimes

refer to the Central New Jersey corridor as "Video Valley."

"There are so many heavyweights in the Route 1 corridor that it

is getting harder and harder for the people in the computer industry

to ignore this place," says Tom Lento, spokesperson for Sarnoff

Corporation. "They have to come here if they want to talk advanced

video technology."

Of all these developments, high definition television (HDTV) and

digital

television (DTV) are the ones making the big headlines these days.

Sarnoff is licensing its design for economical DTV receivers, and

it projects that next year’s Christmas shoppers will be able to buy

the receivers for $400 to $550 (that’s just for the electronics, not

the display). But while HDTV gradually makes its way to becoming more

affordable for the average consumer, dozens of other exciting new

technologies are scrabbling for attention.

U.S. 1’s reporters visited several research centers, including

Princeton

University, the Sarnoff Corporation, and Siemens Corporate Research.

Each has a story — multiple stories — to tell.

Top Of Page
VideoBrush-ing: Wide View

With VideoBrush Panorama, Sarnoff Corporation is once

more taking technology developed for the military and revamping it

for civilian use. But VideoBrush is different from all of Sarnoff’s

other products. For the first time Sarnoff has a product for consumers

that is a mass market retail item. VideoBrush Panorama sells for

$59.99.

What does it do? Video stitching. You take your video camera and pan

across the Grand Canyon. Then you use the VideoBrush Panorama 2.0

software to "stitch together" snippets of the live motion

video in real time and end up with an elongated photo, which you can

send to Grandma (http://www.videobrush.com).

"Kodak says `Capture the moment,’ but all you capture is this

little rectangle," says Doug Dixon of Sarnoff, "and you don’t

have the moment as your eyes saw it." Other software can

"stitch

together" still photos, but Sarnoff’s is the only one that

produces

still panoramas with a video camera.

"In 1996 we took the Sarnoff technology which had been developed

for government applications and started showing we could do real

mosaics

on PCs," says Dixon. "It was exciting and sort of unbelievable

at that time. We started evangelizing then." VideoBrush

Corporation

was founded in 1997 and its distribution center is located in

Carpenteria,

California, but it is supported by Sarnoff Corporation in Princeton.

"Digital imaging is one of the fastest growing multimedia

segments,"

says Mark Kirstein, a research director for Cahners Instat Group.

"The availability of imaging application software, such as

VideoBrush,

will be key to the continued explosive growth of digital imaging

markets."

Stitching is a newer word for what is known in the

computer

vision community as "mosaicing," piecing together and

overlapping

images in a clean way, says Dixon. "Three or four companies in

the PC industry do this." Among the high-end applications are

NASA’s tracking of satellites, or aerial surveying done by those who

manage forests or oil and gas pipelines. "They will fly an

airplane

along a pipeline, with a camera scanning the pipeline, and build up

an image. VideoBrush watches the video streaming in, grabs frames,

and makes a still photo that represents everything the video camera

saw."

Possible uses are for real estate (you see the whole street in one

glance, rather than just one house), for location research for movie

makers (same reason), and for interior decorating (to view a room

as a whole). In the "pictures of people" area, imagine being

able to take 360-degree view of your wedding reception or family

reunion.

Also, on a website or in print, travel agents could show exactly what

it would be like to stay at a particular hotel or resort, and a school

could showcase its environment in a more realistic way. For an

example,

see Valley Forge Military Academy’s website at

(http://www.vfmac.edu/index.html).

Last year PC Magazine was calling the VideoBrush product a good value,

"easy to use and reasonably priced." This year Windows

Magazine

is saying "VideoBrush Panorama lets you do all the stitching and

matching quickly, easily, and perfectly, which is great for creating

those 360-degree immersive worlds on the Web." R&D Magazine

pronounced

it one of the top 100 new technologies of 1998.

As technology leader for a core group of five researchers, Dixon has

been in charge of developing the VideoBrush software and shepherding

it to market. The title, says Dixon, "means I have a license to

make trouble and find new and interesting things." Now he has

to look for the next idea to develop. "The problem with Sarnoff

is that there are so many cool ideas that Sarnoff can’t internally

fund them all. It is very much driven by finding customers and finding

things to pursue."

Pragmatism matters, in this situation, and Dixon says he learned that

from his father, who teaches marketing at Temple and Penn State.

"My

father has a very critical way of looking at things that makes you

ask hard questions: Why are you doing this? What’s the point of it?

It is a real focus on who is the customer and what do they want."

Dixon lives in Hopewell with his wife, who runs the township’s Meals

on Wheels program, and their two teenaged children. He was raised

in Bryn Mawr, and went to Brown, Class of 1977, where he also earned

a master’s degree in computer science. He spent 10 years at Sarnoff

(then RCA) and then moved to Intel’s Princeton lab for five years

of work on digital video interactive (DVI) research. When Intel moved

out of town he came back to Sarnoff, where he worked on a virtual

reality video game in partnership with Hasbro. Had it succeeded,

Hasbro’s

game would have marked Sarnoff’s entry into the consumer mass market.

"It was super secret for the longest time," says Dixon.

"We

had prototype games running and brought in kids to play the games.

But Hasbro looked at the competition and decided not to go any

further."

Other VideoBrush products include Whiteboard, which eliminates the

need to take notes from a flip-chart or whiteboard. It captures the

meeting notes with a couple of sweeps of a video camera, saves them,

and prints them for distribution. Another is VideoBrush Photographer,

which enhances the detail of enlarged photographs by combining two

or more slightly different photos to produce a higher resolution.

"My career has been playing with video on PCs because that’s what

I find fun," says Dixon, "and this panoramic software has

been fun for me. I capture my wife’s garden and my daughter Karin’s

room. Her primary form of expression is renovating the room."

Dixon has captured a memory of each chapter in the decorating

timeline.

And he has a memorable panorama of all her friends on prom night.

"One of the hardest problems at Sarnoff is picking which of the

wonderful things to `productize’," says Dixon. "There is so

much stuff and so much potential that, in some ways, picking one is

the tricky part."

VideoBrush Corporation, Box 1227, Carpinteria CA

93014-1227, 805-566-0030; fax, 805-566-0084. Also c/o Sarnoff, CN

5300, Princeton 08540. 609-734-2553. Home page:

http://www.videobrush.com.

Top Of Page
Video Valley Moves

Video Valley" was the term Matsushita Electric

Corporation of America executives used to describe their choice

of location when they moved 55 Panasonic Technologies employees into

the Enerplex building at 2 Research Way (U.S. 1, April 7, 1993).

Also that year the Toshiba Advanced Television Research Group

moved into 202 Carnegie Center. They were joining other players in

the HDTV world: Intel on Enterprise Way, Hitachi America

at 307 College Road East, Samsung Advanced Media Laboratories

at 1009 Lenox Drive, plus of course the long-time residents —

Lucent Technologies on Carter Road, and Sarnoff. Intel, Samsung,

and Toshiba have since left Princeton, but LGERCA, the

Korean-based

firm, has moved in.

Besides the HDTV researchers, Princeton has a multitude of companies

that support fiberoptic and opto-electronic technologies. Fiberoptic

cable significantly increase transmission capacity for video and other

multimedia. Opto-electronics interface between the transmission on

fiberoptics and viewing on the electronic device, the TV.

PK Technology has 10 employees in Research Park and does

fiberoptic

instrumentation. Among the opto-electronic firms are Epitaxx

(which has 208 employees in West Trenton), Photon Technology

International

(with 24 workers on Deer Park Drive), Princeton Instruments Inc.

(with 130 employees on Quakerbridge Road), and Princeton Scientific

Instruments (with 10 employees on Deer Park Drive).

That doesn’t even account for the other kinds of video or multimedia

firms, such as Sarnoff Real Time Corporation on College Road

East, which works with advanced interactive multimedia servers, or

the computer vision research being done at large corporations such

as NEC USA C&C Research Laboratories (on Independence Way) and

Siemens Corporate Research (on College Road). Other potentially

profitable niches can be found with robotic vision, as with the

30-year-old

ORS Automation at Research Park, video compression technology

(being worked on at Sarnoff as well as other labs), and LCD or LED

displays, as with Universal Display Corporation (see story on POEM,

page 57).

Top Of Page
Pyramid Vision Technologies

A wedding photographer forgot to use a tripod and

watching

your video makes you dizzy. Or, a professional photographer grabbed

footage of an outdoor event — a marathon, a tornado, an auto race,

a helicopter aerial shot — that would be great on tonight’s

television

news, but it’s so wobbly that it won’t pass muster.

Until now you would have to pay thousands of dollars to have your

footage fixed, frame by frame, at a post-production studio. Now you

can send it to Pyramid Vision Technologies (PVT), a Sarnoff

Corporation

spinoff, and have it fixed in real time (the time it takes to watch

the video) for just $500.

PVT does high-end real-time video processing for broadcast

post-production

and the consumer market. Its basic technology was developed for

military

purposes. Peter Burt led Sarnoff’s research team for the method

labeled

by Sarnoff as "multi-resolution pyramid processing." It starts

with an "image pyramid" that transforms images to low

resolutions,

aligns those, and then adds higher resolution information to refine

the image.

The overall technology has been spunoff to PVT and is being marketed

to broadcasting companies, consumer video firms, security surveillance

firms, and aerial broadcasting companies. The cost ranges from $500

for a few minutes to fix your video on PVT’s system to $70,000 to

own the complete package. Right now, you can take your wobbly wedding

video to PVT at Sarnoff, but later on, you may be able to send a tape

to an offsite post-production studio that has bought PVT’s system.

"Post-production houses charge 10 times more to do it by hand,

and they take a whole night to process a few minutes of video. Even

then they will not be able to do some of the things we can do, such

as real-time processing," says Deepam Mishra, manager of business

development. Had there been a second Gulf War, one of the three major

television networks had signed a contract to get its battle footage

cleaned up by PVT, using Sarnoff’s digital links for video transfer.

Most of the time, however, messenger services will handle the

deliveries.

Mishra, age 27, heads the 10-person team that is trying to develop

products. A native of Lucknow, in north India near Delhi, he went

to an Indian Institute of Technology, and after earning a master’s

degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M, he came directly

to Sarnoff.

"It is the only place doing research of this kind in the

world,"

says Mishra. "It is my privilege to develop these technologies

and marketing opportunities. Sarnoff has so much technology here.

We are sitting on a gold mine. I want to lead the effort into making

PVT a commercial success."

Pyramid Vision Technologies, CN 5300, Princeton

08543-5300. Deepam Mishra, manager business, development. Norman

Winarsky,

acting CEO. 609-734-2521; fax, 609-514-4041.

Top Of Page
Universal Display Corp.

Take out your cell phone, dial up your E-mail, and read

your mail on an OLED display. If OLEDs — organic light emitting

diodes — can make a successful leap out of the laboratory, they

may become the technology governing the display function of every

electronic device you use. CRTs (cathode ray tubes used for computer

monitors) and LCDs (used for laptop computers) could go into the same

dustbin now crammed with black-and-white televisions and rotary

phones.

Princeton University researchers, collaborating with a group from

the University of Southern California, now comprise one of the largest

teams in the country doing OLED research. The funding company,

Universal

Display Corporation, (U.S. 1, February 25) currently has its

headquarters

in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, with researchers at laboratories at

the university, and administrators in a four-room walk-up at 234

Nassau

Street.

Now UDC is going into the prototype phase. It has leased an

11,000-foot

high-tech laboratory space in Ewing at 375 Phillips Boulevard, near

an Educational Testing Service building. The firm has 15 employees

now and will expand to at least 20, says Sidney Rosenblatt, UDC’s

executive vice president and CFO. At least by April it plans to move

into the new quarters, complete with two "clean rooms." Julie

Brown, who had run the preproduction pilot line for Hughes Research’

advanced semiconductor technologies, has been hired as vice president

of technology development to manage the facility.

OLEDs are supposed to be lighter in weight, cheaper to manufacture,

more robust at various temperature ranges, less power-hungry and

therefore

more portable. And because they are faster, they are more compatible

with full-motion video. In the most advanced manufacturing phase,

they can be made in high volume with economical roll-to-roll

continuous

production, as well as with one-at-a-time batch processing.

"In our new space we will be able to do low level manufacturing

for niche markets," says Steven Abramson, chief operating officer,

"and we will also do the prototyping for roll to roll production.

But our manufacturing partners will do the high volume production

through both joint ventures and licensing arrangements."

Sherwin Seligsohn funded the research, downstreamed the technology

into UDC, and took the company public, raising $6 million on top of

private funding of about $2.5 million. Because of heavy R&D and patent

expenses, says Rosenblatt, UDC posted a net loss of $746,514 for the

third quarter of this year, ending on September 30, compared to

$696,7770

for the same period last year.

The two universities — Princeton and USC — have a stake in

the company that could turn out to be very profitable. They have

200,000

shares of common stock, and if they exercise an option to buy an

additional

250,000 shares, they will own five percent of the stock, traded on

the Nasdaq SmallCap Market (PANL) and the Philadelphia Exchange (PNL).

The killer ap for LCD technology was the laptop, but the "killer

ap" for OLEDs has yet to be determined. OLEDs can be used for

everything from thumbnail-sized devices up to entire walls.

First pioneered by Kodak a dozen years ago, the OLED is a solid-state

semiconductor device that actually emits light when stimulated by

an electric current. (Liquid crystals, in contrast, merely reflect

light from a back-lit source.) The O in OLED is Organic: synthetic,

non-biological, carbon-containing compounds. OLED research requires

electrical engineers and organic chemists to investigate

carbon-containing

molecules that are luminescent in various parts of the visible

spectrum.

How they give off light is what’s important.

UDL makes functional layered devices using thin-film technology and

gets color out of them from three technology platforms" known

as TOLED, SOLED, and FOLED. TOLED, or Transparent OLED, is the

cornerstone

technology. Synthetic organic molecules are layered in a

microscopically-thin

film — 1/10,000th of the thickness of a human hair — with

transparent electrodes. With this, you can make any window a display.

You could have information coming in through your sunglasses, the

screen on your cell phone, or your aircraft windshield.

SOLED, or Stacked OLED, refers to vertically-stacked colored pixels

for full color display. Different colored pixels are usually arranged

side by side, which takes up three times the area to convey the same

amount of visual information. So you get true color with three times

the amount of resolution.

For FOLED (with an F for Flexible) OLED film is mounted on flexible

plastic substrates (unlike LCDs in which liquid crystals flow between

two pieces of glass). These flexible surfaces may eventually be

laminated

on any surface, enabling you to "roll-up" your viewing screen

and put it in a briefcase.

Want to guess about the killer ap? Imagine different shapes in cell

phones, made possible by flexible OLED.

Universal Display Corporation Inc., 234 Nassau

Street, Princeton 08540. Steven Ambramson, COO. 610-617-4010 or

609-430-9003;

fax, 609-430-2475.

Top Of Page
Siemens Research

If VideoBrush can take good aerial pictures of vast

stretches of oil and gas pipelines, scientists at Siemens Corporate

Research on College Road are working on industrial inspection systems

that are efficient and easy to install and use. They can be used for

pipeline analysis, automobile assembly line quality assurance, and

semiconductor inspection.

The one-piece system is a video camera containing a tiny PC system

that runs with advanced image processing algorithms. Easy to use,

it can make efficient, real-time inspections. It is particularly good

for where human operators can’t go (for instance on a nuclear site),

where inspection is very tedious (to reduce stress on human

operators),

or where an assembly line goes by too quickly for the human eye to

see, says Ming Fang, the project manager.

These algorithms are being used in three systems. Two are current

Siemens products: a smart camera that includes hardware (Vision

Sensor)

and software (ProVision), plus a dedicated machine vision system that

has a camera connected to a computer board (Videomat). The third

system,

used internally by Siemens, is a general purpose software inspection

system (SCR Inspector).

How it might work for a remote site: unskilled technicians at location

A are servicing an industrial site when one part of a pipeline breaks

down. On another continent, at location B, skilled engineers

"look"

at the site in 3-D, diagnose the problem, and draw the solution. In

real time the technicians at location A can view the new 3-D diagram

and reconfigure the pipes to make the repair.

"Our main goal is to let non-experts be able to use the

system,"

says Fang. "The older systems, you had to hire a PhD to use

them."

Siemens Corporate Research Inc., 755 College Road,

Princeton 08540. Thomas Grandke, president and CEO. 609-734-6500.

Home page: http://www.scr.siemens.com.


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