Feb. 12, 2013 at 6:59 PM ET
Soon you will be able to say "enhance" to your photo image editor and have it do just that. It's not quite at "Blade Runner" levels yet, but it's definitely compelling enough for the present — not to mention the fact that it's real.
A collaboration between Adobe Research and the University of Michigan School of Information has yielded PixelTone, a proof-of-concept program that lets users adjust images using a combination of gestures and their own voices.
It's an interface many will be familiar with from science fiction, notably the (in-)famous scene in "Blade Runner" where Deckard uses voice commands to "enhance" a picture by an improbable amount.
PixelTone is a bit more practical, especially for editing photos on smaller devices or tablets where there isn't room for the menus and floating toolboxes you'd find in, say, Photoshop on the desktop. Instead, PixelTone recognizes certain fuzzy concepts like top and bottom, dark and bright, and so on — and can even be taught new terms, such as the names of people or objects in a picture.
The short demonstration video shows the interface in action:
Although it's limited to basic tasks like changing contrast, and has only a rudimentary user interface at the moment, one can imagine what it would be like with a little polish — as many surely will when it is presented in April at the Computer-Human Interaction conference in Paris.
The team, led by Michigan assistant professor Eytan Adar, has also put together a paper (which you can download here) describing the process of putting together the app and how it is likely to develop.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.