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NASA Image Compression Software Gets The Big Picture Real Small

Need some image compression?

DCTune is software that adjusts the compression of a still image so it has optimal quality and minimum file size with no perceptible loss of image quality.
Moffett Field - May 15, 2002
NASA's unique image-compression technology developed for collection, transmission and distribution of space imagery to scientists at remote locations now can be used to enhance the quality of printing for Internet, Web-TV and medical imaging.

Six D, a digital media development firm known for its support of Fortune 2000 companies' marketing efforts, has recently licensed this NASA-developed technology known as DCTune. DCTune is software that adjusts the compression of a still image so it has optimal quality and minimum file size with no perceptible loss of image quality.

This technology builds on JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), the current international standard for still image compression, calculating the matrix that will produce minimum file size with a visually perfect image.

"DCTune works by replacing the human viewer with a computer model viewer," said the developer of the software, Andrew Watson of NASA Ames Research Center, in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. "It 'looks' at the image just like a human does - seeing the same errors and missing the same subtleties," Watson explained.

Similar to the process in a human brain, DCTune allows the computer to adjust each of the 64 detail levels it sees until they are as low as possible, but yielding no visible errors. "It is an interesting application of 'human technology,'" Watson added. "In fact, this is a computer model of part of the human brain."

Working closely with NASA's Far West Regional Technology Transfer Center (RTTC), the Honolulu-based Six D, Inc. received support in developing its commercialization strategy required to license the NASA patent. This included defining technology modifications required to refine DCTune for commercial use, as well as an extensive analysis of potential market segments.

"This NASA license to Six D demonstrates the important role the NASA Far West RTTC plays in identifying companies and matching them with innovative NASA technologies available for commercialization," says the Far West RTTC Director Ken Dozier.

"NASA has offered us a way to add substantial technologies to our inventory at a fraction of what it would cost to develop them," said Kelly O'Connor, Six D's chief operating officer. "This gives us a significant offering for those looking to reduce bandwidth and storage requirements worldwide."

"Both NASA and private industry benefit when we partner for commercialization," noted David Lackner, Ames' Technology Commercialization Manager. "In Six D, we have a firm that is in a prime position to take NASA R&D to market."

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