[SR Talks] ⑥ Interview with a Camera Expert at Samsung Research America

Q: Please briefly introduce yourself, the Mobile Processor Innovation (MPI) Lab at Samsung Research America, and the kind of work that goes on there. What projects are you working on?

The Mobile Processor Innovation (MPI) Lab at Samsung Research America develops advanced camera technology used in Galaxy Camera. We have developed the Multi-Frame Processor, which collects and combines multiple frames when a Samsung user takes a photo on the Galaxy Camera. Our mission is to develop algorithms that use information from these frames to provide the world’s best image quality in the most challenging photography environments.

I am John Glotzbach, a Senior Principal Engineer in MPI Lab in Samsung Research America. I have been involved in the core technology development behind the Multi-Frame Processor in the Galaxy Camera for over 10 years. My background is in image processing and I have worked on image signal processor (ISP) architecture leading to the work that MPI does using Multi-Frame Processor technology to dramatically increase the image quality of Galaxy Camera. Members of MPI Lab have a broad set of skills covering Artificial Intelligence, Image Processing, and High Performance Software, giving MPI the ideal skill set to realize this technology.

At the foundation of MPI Lab, we were challenged with creating new features that added significant value to the user experience. However, as we were not yet an established group within Samsung, MPI needed to work hard to gain credibility. We successfully delivered new camera features in our first year and continued to add new technology with each subsequent generation.

Even after ten years, the landscape remains highly competitive, and we are constantly challenged to innovate beyond our industry peers. This includes both algorithm competition from external vendors and other camera phone companies. As a result, we are continually pushing ourselves to stay ahead of the curve and provide unique, high-quality experiences for our users.

Q: Please tell us about the importance of your research field or technology.

With each generation of Galaxy Camera, our research in the Multi-Frame Processor and new pixel-level AI processing solutions enables significant improvements in image quality and innovative new camera features. Through camera R&D, we strive to raise the bar for image quality with every new product release. As part of our ongoing efforts, we’ve focused on developing advancements in zoom quality, high dynamic range imaging, high-resolution captures and Nightography. These advancements ultimately allow Samsung users to enjoy greater flexibility and convenience when taking and sharing photos using the cameras on their mobile phones. By continually pushing the limits of camera R&D, we're proud to play a role in shaping the future of mobile photography and empowering individuals worldwide to preserve and celebrate life's precious moments.

Q: Can you tell us about the main achievement and the most rewarding moment in your research, or a memorable episode?

We have released the Multi-Frame Processor in every flagship smartphone since the Galaxy Note 4. From the inception of MPI Lab, we have focused on building new features that add value to Galaxy Camera. One of our most rewarding moments is watching the Galaxy Unpacked events, where Samsung Electronics unveils their latest products and technologies and seeing our technologies specifically highlighted. At the release of the Galaxy S8, our multi-frame processor was presented to the public as an industry-leading camera innovation. More recently, the concept of Nightography was introduced, using MPI’s multi-frame technology to capture high quality images in even the darkest environments.

Leading up to commercial release of a new device is always a challenging period. The team is very focused on testing image quality and optimizing the software performance of our algorithms. We receive daily feedback on issues that have been found while testing the camera and we have to provide resolutions to those issues without any delays. After enduring this period, it is rewarding to see our features be recognized in the Unpacked public forum. Following the phone’s release, independent reviewers also present about camera quality. Our team reads these reviews as they provide valuable real-world feedback. Positive reviews reward our work, and the negative reviews challenge us to maintain constant improvement. We need both to continue our success.

Q: What is your vision for the future, and what goal would you like to achieve?

Our vision for the future is to develop the World’s Best Camera by leveraging all the embedded resources on our Galaxy smartphones to achieve fast processing times and continuous new product features. As this technology advances, AI is providing new tools for image processing and scene understanding. We are excited to utilize this new technology to advance image quality to new levels. The integration of AI with multi-frame technologies is providing cleaner, more detailed images to the user and will continue to allow our users to capture meaningful moments even in normally photographically challenging environments.

Q: Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring researchers interested in pursuing a career in advanced camera technology?

Camera technology is a rewarding field that requires a broad skill set. For aspiring researchers, I advise establishing knowledge and practice in fundamental image processing, and then expanding to the latest AI research in image understanding and image restoration topics. Study the unique software techniques required for quickly processing large images. Learn to take pictures and observe how the public uses their phones to take pictures. Study both good and bad photos and imagine how new technology can help transform a bad photo into a good one.