Monday, May 01, 2006

Kodak's patent application for determining age using the redeye effect

Kodak has determined that pupil dilation reflex time increases with age (like most other reflexes), and has filed a patent application for an age-detecting camera system.

The application [pub. app. 20060045352; app. 10/932353] is entitled Determining the age of a human subject in a digital image and the first claim is

A method for ascertaining the age class of a human subject in a digital image, the human subject having a redeye defect pair, each defect of the redeye defect pair having one or more defect pixels, the method comprising the steps of: identifying two regions of pixels corresponding to the defects; measuring a distance between said regions; determining a region size based upon a size of at least one of said regions; and determining an age class from said distance and said region size.

Paragraph 5 states: Generally, when an eye exhibits the redeye defect in an image, the pupil is at least partially dilated. The maximum pupil dilation is a function of age. With aging, there is deterioration in vision in low light conditions. There are neural losses, but the major decline is due to changes in the eye's optics. The lens and other optical media become more opaque and the lens becomes yellower, allowing less light entering the eye to reach the photoreceptors and making discrimination of blue colors more difficult. The relative size of the pupil shrinks, allowing less light to enter the eye. The pupil's response to dim light decreases with age and becomes virtually nil by age 80.

Now, one asks does Kodak's invention amount to "patenting a law of nature" as was asserted in the Metabolite case (and discussed by Michael Crichton in the New York Times in "This essay breaks the law") or is this invention man utilizing a law of nature to create something useful?


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