Photographic mosaic

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A photographic mosaic of a sea gull made from pictures of birds and other nature photos using hexagonal tiles

In the field of photographic imaging, a photographic mosaic (also known under the term Photomosaic, a portmanteau of photo and mosaic, trademarked by Runaway Technology, Inc.) is a picture (usually a photograph) that has been divided into (usually equal sized) rectangular sections, each of which is replaced with another photograph of appropriate average color. When viewed at low magnifications, the individual pixels appear as the primary image, while close examination reveals that the image is in fact made up of many hundreds or thousands of smaller images. They are a computer-created type of montage.

Originally, the term photomosaic referred to compound photographs created by stitching together a series of adjacent pictures of a scene. Space scientists have been assembling mosaics of this kind since at least as early as the Soviet Union space satellite missions to the moon in the late 1950s [1].


[edit] History

1993 Live from Bell Labs event poster
  • 1993 Joseph Francis, working for R/Greenberg Associates in Manhattan, is believed to be the inventor of the modern-day computer-generated colour image versions. His Live from Bell Labs poster created in 1993 used computer-themed tile photographs to create a mosaic of a face. He went on to create a mosaic for Animation Magazine in 1993, which was repeated in Wired Magazine (November 1994, p. 106). Francis has said on his "History of Photo Mosaics" webpage that his interest in developing these techniques further was in part stimulated by the work of artist Chuck Close.
  • 1994 Dave McKean creates an image for DC Comics, a mosaic of a face made from photos of faces, although this is believed to be created manually using Photoshop.
  • 1994 Adam Finkelstein and Sandy Farrier create a mosaic of John F. Kennedy from parts of Marilyn Monroe pictures. The result was displayed in the Xerox PARC Algorithmic Art Show in 1994.
  • 1994 Benetton: AIDS - Faces mosaic. Over one thousand young peoples' portraits from all over the word computer-processed spell out the word AIDS.
  • 1995 The Gioconda Sapiens, a face with ten thousand faces, was presented to the public in April 1995 (Spain, Domus museum). This was the first large photographic mosaic, using photographs of 10,062 people from 110 countries to make the Mona Lisa.
2000 Puzzle photographic mosaic of the Royal Albert Hall
  • 1995 Robert Silvers creates a Photomosaic and goes on to trademark the term Photomosaic and patent creation of Photomosaics in 1997.
  • 2003 Doubletake Images creates the world's largest photographic mosaic—over 10,000 square feet (1,000 m2). The live event took place at Disneyland and was created by thousands of castmembers holding up photographs of themselves.[2]
  • 2004 Roy Feinson creates a series of 38 giant mosaic murals to celebrate Disneyland's 50th Anniversary in which 250,000 guest-submitted photographs were used. [3]The project included the first tri-level mosaic, comprising an image of Steamboat Willie made up of photographs of Disney castmembers, which themselves were mosaics made up of over 150,000 guest photographs.[4]
  • 2006 Picture Mosaics creates the first 3D scatter mosaic for Fox's hit show American Idol. The technique uses photos that are rotated in varying degrees and overlapping each other to mimic the effect of a collection of photos that are scattered across a surface. View the scatter mosaic example

[edit] Intellectual property

Robert Silvers, a Master's student at MIT, filed for a trademark on the term Photomosaic on September 3, 1996. This trademark was registered on August 12, 2003.[1]

Silvers also applied for a U.S. patent on the production of Photomosaics on January 2, 1997, which was granted as US patent 6137498 in October 2000 and has been assigned to Runaway Technology, Inc. Patent applications in other countries were also filed, and patents granted include EP patent 0852363, JP patent 10269353, CA patent 2226059, and AU patent 723815B. He is quoted as saying: "By being granted this patent in the United States and other countries, we can protect our proprietary innovations and continue to make unique artwork." [2] In September 2008, the Public Patent Foundation filed a formal request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to review the US patent 6137498 on photomosaics. The request was granted November 2008. [3]

There are a number of other commercial companies that create mosaics with photos. Since there has been no litigation of these patents, these companies must therefore either use processes that do not infringe on the particular claimed process, have licenses under the patents, or are infringing those patents but Runaway Technology has chosen not to bring infringement proceedings.

Silver's patent may be regarded as a software patent, a subject over which there is a great deal of debate. For example, Article 52(2)(c) EPC states that "programs for computers as such" are not regarded as patentable inventions. Nevertheless, current practice relating to computer-implemented inventions under the EPC means that a process that provides a technical effect may be patented even if it is implemented by a computer.

The UK patent deriving from EP patent 0852363 is currently the subject of revocation proceedings initiated in July 2006.[4] The decision over whether or not to revoke the EP(UK) patent will be made by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO), not the European Patent Office (EPO) who originally granted the patent, since no opposition to the European patent was filed within the nine-month post-grant period[5]. Additionally, on February 6, 2007, LandMark Mosaics Ltd requested a non-binding opinion from the UK Patent Office as to whether this UK patent is new and non-obvious.[6]. This opinion was issued on May 4, 2007[7], and found that the patent was not novel due to a prior public disclosure by Robert Silvers in his thesis from 1996. This opinion was held up under review on February 22, 2008[8]. This opinion is not binding, and as such, revocation proceedings are continuing.

[edit] Video mosaic

Photographic mosaics are typically formed from a collection of still images. A more recent phenomenon, however, has been the use of video mosaics where, instead of using still images, video clips are assembled to create a larger image. As an example, the closing credits of the 2005 Playstation 2 game God of War incorporated a still image of the main character, Kratos, formed from a number of in-game videos. An example of a high-definition video mosaic has been posted on the Picturemosaics website.

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