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Nvidia Chimera Photography Engine Up Close: Real-Time HDR and Object Tracking

If you want to take better pictures on your mobile device, Nvidia's Chimera computational photography engine is the technology you've been waiting for. Built in to Nvidia's upcoming Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i, Chimera allows you to take real-time HDR photos and track moving objects. We had a chance to get a close look at this technology in action here at Mobile World Congress and came away wishing we had Chimera in our mobile devices and cameras.

Real-Time HDR

If the foreground of your photo is darker than the background, your standard camera has a hobbeson's choice: Get the correct exposure for the foreground image and have a washed-out background or prioritize the background. To solve this problem, most smartphones and tablets today support HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, which takes two shots at two different exposures. However, there's usually a post-processing delay of a few seconds after you shoot, and there's a small amount of lag between the two shots so that a fast moving object can get ghosting.

In a brief demo, an Nvidia rep showed us the benefits of real-time HDR using Chimera. The company had a model landscape set up with miniatures of houses in front of a background with a blue sky on it. A Tegra 4 reference tablet sat in front of the landscape with an app running that showed a split-screen preview, with an HDR-enhanced image on the left side of the screen and a non-HDR image on the right. As expected, on the non-HDR side of the screen the blue sky was completely whitewashed, but on the HDR side it retained its color fidelity.  As the rep moved the tablet around, the preview updated in real-time and the camera app never paused to wait for HDR.

The rep also showed us how real-time HDR can prevent ghosting. As he waved his hand, another person took a non-real-time HDR photo of him and we could see that the fingers were ghosting because of the dual shots. However, when someone took a photo of him on the Tegra 4 tablet, his fingers were less blurry.

Image Tracking

Image tracking can be even more important than HDR when you're trying to keep up with moving objects. With Chimera, your device's camera can follow an object or person even as it moves around the screen, enabling it to get better pictures of that object. During our demo, the Nvidia rep pointed his tablet at a model house and selected it. The software then drew a box around the house and, no matter where he moved the tablet, the box remained on the object. He even put the tablet down and picked it up again and, when pointed at the model house, the box reappeared.

Nvidia Tegra 4 devices with Chimera will be available in Q2 with Tegra 4i devices that also support the technology due by end of year.