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NASA Reveals 'Wright' Stuff in Enhanced Centennial Photos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, NASA expanded the vocabulary for some vintage Wright Brothers' images.

A researcher at East Carolina University used new image-enhancement technology jointly developed by NASA Langley Research Center and industry to define previously obscured details from historic Wright photographs.

Before Retinex
Wright Brothers' first flight photograph before Retinex enhancement
Retinex image of first flight
Wright Brothers' first flight photograph after Retinex enhancement

The technology, called Retinex Imaging Processing, was used to enhance the Library of Congress, high-resolution, digital images taken from more than 300 glass photographic plates out of the Wrights' collection.

The digital reproductions of the plates were released a few years ago in advance of the Centennial of Flight celebration. The Retinex photo-processing software was also used with images from Wright State University.

New fine points from the enhanced photos revealed houses, camping supplies in tents, newspapers, and details of Orville and Wilbur Wright themselves. As well as the famous "first flight" images, the brothers created a visual record of daily life on the Outer Banks of North Carolina from the early 1900s.

In addition to improving digital photographs, the NASA Retinex system can be applied to medical and forensic imaging, aerial reconnaissance and technologies to improve visibility in foggy and smoky conditions. Retinex automatically processes images to give them improved contrast, lightness, and sharpness. The technology was created by NASA to give pilots better visibility at night and in bad weather.

To see the Retinex-enhanced Wright photos or find out more about the photo-processing software, go to: