The Community for Technology Leaders

Express Yourself

John R. Smith, IBM Research

Pages: pp. 2–3

Abstract—Multimedia technology is fostering new developments in the arts and in online services that create customized, multimedia content based on personal photos and videos.

Keywords—multimedia, content analysis, authoring, multimedia arts, EIC's message, IEEE MultiMedia

In 1968, Andy Warhol said "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Well, that future has come because now everyone can be a worldwide celebrity as a consequence of generation me meeting digital multimedia technology. Today, there are numerous online sites and services that can turn your pictures into fun, shared content or even works of art. We've long been able to use our own pictures to create photo albums, calendars, stationary, or even t-shirts and coffee mugs. But technology is now enabling much more.

Many personal photo-management tools and sites provide the ability to automatically create rich content, such as movies and collages, from your photos. For example, Google Picasa (see can create mosaics from your photos, and it gives you the ability to select only certain pictures or use only selected automatically recognized faces. Similarly, Apple iPhoto (see and Windows Live Movie Maker (see can turn your photos into slide shows and movies with special effects, transitions, and sound. Photo-tagging is also becoming a critical linking mechanism within social networks. For example, Facebook allows its users to tag your appearance in uploaded photos, and notifications are then automatically broadcast within your social network of friends and family when you are tagged.

One of the fun sites that appeared during the holidays is Elf Yourself from Jib Jab (see The service allows you to upload a photo of your face onto the dancing body of an elf to create an animation that can be shared. The service is not too advanced in its use of automatic face detection to crop and place persons within the animations. Instead, it relies on a few simple editing tools. But it's easy enough to use and the results are very entertaining.

The use of multimedia technology in the creative arts is growing. Multimedia artists typically use computers to create visual images for advertising, movies, television programs, video, computer games, or other electronic media. With the increasing reliance on artists to create digital or multimedia artwork, the US Labor Department expects the number of people working in multimedia arts to rise by 14 percent between 2008 and 2018, which will be the main driver of growth in the arts profession (see

Much of this new growth in multimedia arts will come from exploiting increasingly advanced technologies for analysis and synthesis of multimedia content. Automatic face detection and recognition will find more regular use. Similarly, automatic recognition and extraction of human objects will make it easier to create new content from images extracted from photos and videos. In addition, tools and techniques for synthesis of multimedia content will improve as content analysis gets better. For example, once human objects are extracted from pictures or video, they could be registered to a human body model, then the model could be animated automatically. This would then give the ability to create new content based on high-level descriptions such as "take my picture from last week's holiday and create a new movie of me disco-dancing."

Eventually, these advanced capabilities will be a reality. The only question is whose face is going to be the one dancing all the way to the bank.

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