Microsoft Research Blog

The Microsoft Research blog provides in-depth views and perspectives from our researchers, scientists and engineers, plus information about noteworthy events and conferences, scholarships, and fellowships designed for academic and scientific communities.

BLINK … and You Won’t Miss a Thing

February 4, 2013 | By Microsoft blog editor

Posted by Rob Knies

BLINK logo

You’ve no doubt experienced that sinking feeling—we all have—after taking a photo and realizing that you pressed the shutter release just a bit too late. The moment is gone, the action elusive, the opportunity squandered. It’s frustrating, but what can you do?

What you can do is download BLINK.

BLINK is a brand-new photo-capturing app for Windows Phone 8. The app captures a burst of images beginning before you even press the camera shutter and continuing for about a second. It doesn’t matter whether your shutter finger is a touch too early or a tad too late. Once BLINK has collected the series of images, you simply swipe your finger across the film strip at the bottom of your screen to select the best version.

That’s right: Using BLINK, you never miss the best shot. What’s more, the app includes advanced image-stabilization technology to remove camera shake, thereby enabling you to focus solely on the important parts of the scene you want to document.

Sound too good to be true? Michael Cohen knows better, just from talking to those who have seen trials of the app.

“Mostly people just ask when they can get it on their Windows Phone,” says Cohen, principal researcher in the Interactive Visual Media Group at Microsoft Research Redmond, who helped drive the project. “They also enjoy flipping through the individual frames almost as much as looking at the final choice. This is why we allow users to go back to the stack of images and flip through them again, in essence allowing them to ‘relive the moment,’ as well as possibly pick another image to save.”

The magic behind BLINK lies within the burst of images, and, as Cohen explains, the technology is optimized precisely for the scenario that frustrated users want to avoid.

“As soon as you turn on BLINK, it sees what you see,” he says. “BLINK has a short-term memory, about half a second, so when you push the shutter button, it ‘remembers’ what has just happened and continues to pay attention for about another second.

“In that way, it seems to be able to anticipate what you wanted to capture, just the way you anticipate some action in front of you that leads you to ‘capture that moment.’”

Get Microsoft Silverlight

To activate BLINK, you can either press the shutter button or tap the screen, which flashes to indicate the moment of image capture. One the BLINK image burst is complete, the full set of shots is saved for future use, and previous BLINK series can be accessed by swiping across the phone screen from the left.

Pressing the three vertically aligned dots at the top right provides an intuitive menu—Edit, Share, Camera, Delete, Delete All—and the Edit command can be used to save a particular shot or to relive the moment. And a Share option enables the selected shot to be emailed to a friend.

Cohen and collaborators Matt Uyttendaele and Krishnan Ramnath have been working on the BLINK project for a while—and they’re not done pushing the technology further yet. Cohen recalls well the instant when he became convinced that such a pursuit would pay dividends.

“The real aha moment came in preparing for a talk I gave in 2005, which was called Capturing the Moment,” he says. “We came to the belief that, in the future, every time you pushed the shutter button, the camera would capture a chunk of time, rather than just an instant.

“The simplest part of this vision is what you now see in BLINK, but there are many other great things to come from this basic idea.”