Scientists Create An Algorithm That Removes The Water From Underwater Photos


We’ve sent people to the Moon and we’ve put rovers on Mars (most people believe this unless they’re a conspiracy nut or a flat-Earther), but the oceans on our very own planet are still very much unexplored. And photographers are missing out on the beauty and biological diversity that await us in the Seven Seas because all that water gets in the way and distorts the colors of everything—from seahorses to corals.

Well, oceanographer Derya Akkaynak and engineer Tali Treibitz have created an algorithm called ‘Sea-thru’ (I’ll bet my right hand that this pun is definitely intended) that removes the water from underwater photographs. That way, you get all the hues and saturation that you’d expect from regular, professional landscape pics.

Two scientists created the ‘Sea-thru’ algorithm that alters underwater photos to show what the colors ‘really’ look like

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

What you need to know about water, besides that it’s wet and covers over two-thirds of the planet’s surface is that it scatters light at different wavelengths. This leads to underwater coral reef photographers capturing washed out images without the vibrant yellows and reds that you’d otherwise expect to sea.

The algorithm color corrects the pics to show what marine life would look like on the surface

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Akkaynak and Treibitz’s algorithm has far-reaching consequences for marine biologists who rely on accurate colors to count and classify species: now they’ll get a well-deserved break because machines will be able to do their time-consuming work for them.

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

While some people are incredibly excited by the scientists’ algorithm, others are less than enthusiastic. Some critics believe that removing the water from underwater photos makes them look bland. While others expressed the opinion that the algorithm is far from revolutionary because it involves ‘basic color correction.’

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

However, the ‘Sea-thru’ algorithm is very different from Photoshopping a photo to enhance the colors that water absorbs. The algorithm creates a “physically accurate correction,” which means that what you see is what you’d get if underwater plants and animals were on the surface.

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

But what do you think of the underwater algorithm, dear Pandas? Which photos do you prefer: the pics with the water or those with all the water removed? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s a video that goes into more detail about ‘Sea-thru’

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

Image credits: Derya Akkaynak

One of the researchers went into more detail about what the algorithm does

Here’s what some people had to say

Other internet users weren’t impressed

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