Imaging science is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the generation, collection, duplication, analysis, modification, and visualization of images, including imaging things that the human eye cannot detect. As an evolving field it includes research and researchers from physics, mathematics, electrical engineering, computer vision, computer science, and perceptual psychology. The Royal Photographic Society offers an Imaging Scientist Qualification.
The foundation of imaging science as a discipline is the "imaging chain" – a conceptual model describing all of the factors which must be considered when developing a system for creating visual renderings (images). In general, the links of the imaging chain include:
1. The human visual system. Designers must also consider the psychophysical processes which take place in human beings as they make sense of information received through the visual system.
2. The subject of the image. When developing an imaging system, designers must consider the observables associated with the subjects which will be imaged. These observables generally take the form of emitted or reflected energy, such as electromagnetic energy or mechanical energy.
3. The capture device. Once the observables associated with the subject are characterized, designers can then identify and integrate the technologies needed to capture those observables. For example, in the case of consumer digital cameras, those technologies include optics for collecting energy in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, and electronic detectors for converting the electromagnetic energy into an electronic signal.
4. The processor. For all digital imaging systems, the electronic signals produced by the capture device must be manipulated by an algorithm which formats the signals so they can be displayed as an image. In practice, there are often multiple processors involved in the creation of a digital image.
5. The display. The display takes the electronic signals which have been manipulated by the processor and renders them on some visual medium. Examples include paper (for printed, or "hard copy" images), television, computer monitor, or projector.
Note that some imaging scientists will include additional "links" in their description of the imaging chain. For example some will include the "source" of the energy which "illuminates" or interacts with the subject of the image. Others will include storage and/or transmission systems.
Subfields within imaging science include: image processing, 3D computer graphics, animations, atmospheric optics, astronomical imaging, digital image restoration, digital imaging, color science, digital photography, holography, magnetic resonance imaging, medical imaging, microdensitometry, optics, photography, remote sensing, radar imaging, radiometry, silver halide, ultrasound imaging, photoacoustic imaging, thermal imaging, visual perception, and various printing technologies.
Notes and references
- Harrison H. Barrett and Kyle J. Myers, Foundations of Image Science (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) ISBN 0471153001
- Ronald N. Bracewell, Fourier Analysis and Imaging (Kluwer Academic, 2003) ISBN 0306481871
- Roger L. Easton Jr., Fourier Methods in Imaging (John Wiley & Sons, 2010) ISBN 9780470689837 DOI 10.1002/9780470660102
- Carlson Center for Imaging Science at RIT Research center that offers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Imaging Science.
- The University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences offers an image science track for the M.S and Ph.D. degree in optical sciences.
- Science de l'image et des médias numériques Bachelor of image science and digital media unique in Canada.
- Image Sciences Institute, Utrecht, Netherlands Utrecht University Institute for Image Sciences - focuses on fundamental and applied research in specifically medical image processing and acquisition.
- Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science - dedicated to using imaging to improve health-care and for advancing knowledge in the biological sciences.