With Computational Photography, 95% of what you shoot is no longer captured but generated

Apple Keynote, Sept 10 2019, Steve Jobs theater

iPhone 11 and its « Deep Fusion » mode leave no doubt that photography is now software.

Everybody in techdom has noticed that Apple Sept 10, 2019 keynote was still deeply focused on the iPhone, and more precisely on what the company calls its « camera system ». The company insisted almost dramatically on the « extraordinary » capabilities of the new product line when it comes to photo and video.

I will focus on the iPhone Pro that brings the most radically (3+ optics are no longer new though) but also seem to cater, in the keynote at least, to the category of « Pro photographers ». Its relies on 3 cameras, that boast « exceptional » features in Apple’s usual jargon, yet the real revolution is in what you can do with them : 6 pro photographers examples were displayed on the screen as a proof. Same with the « totally redesigned » Photos app. Capturing light was one thing, it is now eclipsed by processing pixels.

Still, the most prominent features advocated yesterday were « Night Mode », « Deep Fusion », video shooting modes that all rely on the 2 or 3 cameras and that « pre shoot » before the A13 bionic chip combines and optimizes everything for final rendering.

Capturing was one thing, it is now eclipsed by processing.

In the case of « Deep Fusion » — that will come, interestingly, as a software update later in November — details unveiled in the keynote mentioned 8 shots being taken just before the button is pressed, then combined with the photo and processed by the A13 bionic chip neural engine to generate, in almost real time, an optimized picture that has been calculated pixel by pixel.

Apple is always scarce on figures ; the tech Kommentariat got frustrated by the absence of mW in the battery life, or the very bizarre chart with no axis that supported the idea that the new in-house A13 bionic chip was the best ever included in any smartphone. Googling deeper across the web does not bring much though : for instance, a similar « 1 Trillion operations per second » claim was already made at the previous iPhoneXS launch, relating the to the previous A12 chip (even if A13 is supposed to have more transistors, deliver more, and consume less though). Setting this aside, and just dividing 1 trillion (as 10^12) by 12 million pixels results in a whopping 83.000 operations per pixel in a second.

Computational photography delivers post-processed images recreated from pre-processed shots, according to an AI « taste ».

Photography has therefore entered a new era where you now take a picture (if the word still has a meaning) first, and manage parameters afterwards such as focus, exposure, depth of field. As a result you do not get « one shot » but are offered an optimized computation among tons of others. In the case of « Deep Fusion », what you receive is a post-processed image that has been totally recreated from pre-processed shots, all of this according to an Artificial Intelligence « taste ».

Now (even) « Pro » photographers will start trading freedom of choice for convenience. Pictures have become shots and I start missing my Ilford rolls. Sometimes.

Disclosure : I modestly contributed to this 10 years ago as I joined imsense, bringing single picture Dynamic Range Processing to the iPhone, and later bringing Apple’s HDR mode to decency. We honestly just wanted to rebalance the light by recovering « eye-fidelity ».

This Very Simple Trick Might Save Your AirPods

Lost them once again ? Time to retrieve (almost) any missing wireless airbuds and headsets with just a 30 seconds effort !

For most of us, vaction time means travel time and carrying headsets to relax, listen to music, and enjoy movies or podcasts. Those headsets have become wireless, smaller in many cases, and earbuds now represent a visibly growing segment turned mainstream thanks to Apple AirPods.

Problem is, smaller also means more prone to forget and lose, and the volume of orphan headsets has probably exploded over the past 2 years ; I already lost two sets of AirPods and am sure that lots of readers of this post had similar experiences. As we have very sensitive and frequent interactions of these little device, their loss is immediately felt as an intimate and irritative experience. Not mentioning the shame of giving out to a stranger a valuable piece of Apple Gear. And the cost to renew it.

How much does a gram of AirPod cost ?

The smaller, the easiest to lose. And also the priciest per gram lost.

At above $4/g one can consider AirPods price density as fairly high : for the record, it is not that far from the iPhone’s average price density, in the same ballpark than the Apple micro USB to Lightning adapter, or Canadian weed, while still 1/10th of gold or silver.

I am however on my way to retrieve the second lost pair, which takes my retrieval rate from 0% to 50% !

Increasing retrieval rate is as important as preventing an inevitable loss

Some very smart answers have been given to the « How to find my lost AirPods » excruciating question: what about the reverse one : « How can lost AirPods find me back ?« 

Increasing such outcome’s probability from near zero to above 50% can be achieved with one very simple and smart trick : just rename them in such a way that their new name indicates not who you are but how to reach you.

Chances are they will be found by a benevolent person, who won’t be able to help in anyway if your AirPods are just named “AirPods” or “These are Mary’s Nice AirPods”…

It is the Bluetooth Settings, stupid ! 

In the Bluetooth Settings, rename your devices by embedding a way to reach you if somebody finds them

All you need to do is to tap on the name (which is the default one or the fancy custom one you had chosen) and add your social profile handle and / or an email address or a phone number.

I do not recommend prepending anything with « if found please reach me at… » as you want to display the retrieval protocol in an obvious and self explanatory manner.

And while you are at it, why not batch rename any other devices you would like to retrieve if you happen to lose them too ?

The above AirPods example actually works for any Bluetooth device that can be renamed, so most wireless headsets are therefore good candidates for a mass renaming campaign.

Such list may further be extended to anything that you don’t want to stay too far away from where you are, and would be desperate to retrieve should this happen against your will.

  • wireless headsets
  • USB keys
  • Drones (remember those things sometimes fall and need then help for RTH)
  • Any other idea ?

Please don’t hesitate to share your experience or advice in the comments. Once you have renamed your AirPods of course …

What else do you care for ?

Jambox™ by Jawbone : an epiphany

In my former VP Home devices life I have been exposed to lots of hardware products and never had an unpacking experience matching or even reaching the one of Apple products.

Until today when I received a JamBox by Jawbone (thanks to Rafik Jallad). Unpacking and finding stylish dual USB cords (12″ and 60″), a compact lightweight charger, a smart magnetic carrying case, an a flat 3.5mm stereo cord was a pure bliss. Everything was neatly labeled and carefully arranged under the main device. Quality and attention to detail were shining everywhere.


The JamBox itself is very well crafted, the product feels solid and soft with an incredibly firm/smooth standing on any surface, turning such surface into an extension for the loudspeakers. User experience is obvious, with the JamBox « speaking » its status, battery level, and various settings when needed.

Yet the main surprise came at setup (pairing with an iDevice is a no brainer), when I actually started to listen. This box is packed with decibels, in an extraordinarily wide frequency range for such a small, battery powered thing. I’ll test it further especially as an audio conferencing tool as it also sports a microphone.

I must add that the online registration process + firmware update are equally dumb simple and very well executed from a UI standpoint. Beyond simple registration, the incentive of customizing the device in a very minimalistic yet fun way (you can choose the voice that will « speak » to you about your Jambox whereabouts) creates a (significantly) higher customer engagement and allows Jawbone to operate as a « platform », holding the two ends of a value chain. One may object that in their case the « big » end is the device and that the server side is minimalistic, yet this is a chain and allows direct customer relationship.