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#1 GSBass

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 07:54 AM

Robotic Imaging:
I’ve tend to research stuff to death when I’m interested in something and have watched a human nature thing play out in a lot of Astro forums over the last year. The truth is Astro imaging is very hard....to the extreme, the knowledge base, patience,equipment required and skill to produce great Astro images is a subset of our hobby that few achieve greatness in. In fact the general public still does not grasp the hours and hours of capture and post processing to produce just one image.

Things started to change a little a few years ago with the advent of electronically assisted astrophotography, however you could usually see the difference in the quality of the images produced. It was slightly easier and brought more people in to attempt it but it still required the kind of dedication and equipment to learn, it made it easier to try but still was a pretty major hurdle to do well.

So now technology marches on and several companies have started building robotic imaging rigs. One of the first was evoscope, it was pretty much dismissed by the Astro community because the images just were not that good, however it did represent a shift to where someone with no experience at all could drop a few grand and produce a recognizable Astro image, it was actually pretty brutal the amount of pushback expressed in imaging forums ,but when  another company introduced Stellina which did about the same thing except a little better, I think it started to sink in that the days of being an elite Astro imager was closing fast.

These products are first generation and so you know ,with all tech, equipment and algorithms improve, they may not be able to compete with old school imaging yet but the writing is on the wall, it’s coming. It’s a good thing but it also is a sad thing for the people who have spent so much time perfecting their craft. The timeline is fuzzy because the astronomy market is small and things don’t change as fast, often 3 to 5 years between product cycles... but it is coming

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Edited by GSBass, 10 April 2021 - 08:32 AM.

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#2 ram812

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 08:35 AM

What will also be interesting is the cost...what will that SBIG or ASI cost then? Mounts? Will it all be sold as a package? We'll see!
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#3 GSBass

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 08:46 AM

That will be interesting , although the robotic cameras out so far are not really designed for us...ie...they are more geared to mass market, other companies will start designing products that do the same thing but with more capability, if they don’t understand that yet then I think they will soon..... there is a real danger to their whole business model if they wait to embrace it, 

What will also be interesting is the cost...what will that SBIG or ASI cost then? Mounts? Will it all be sold as a package? We'll see!


Edited by GSBass, 10 April 2021 - 08:47 AM.


#4 GSBass

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 09:02 AM

I think people don’t yet realize just how advanced these systems will become, Ai that analyzes your degree of light pollution, analyzing  seeing and implements exact algorithms for not just those conditions but for the object your trying to shoot just by having a knowledge of great shots achieved under the same conditions, Vespera is even executing focusing changes caused by temperature drops, advanced systems may even have automated filter wheels selected by the computer to compensate for various conditions or switch filters mid exposure to bring out details it’s aware would benefit the image based on the known characteristics

What will also be interesting is the cost...what will that SBIG or ASI cost then? Mounts? Will it all be sold as a package? We'll see!


Edited by GSBass, 10 April 2021 - 09:04 AM.


#5 GSBass

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 10:01 AM

There is one elephant in the room, one day will you discontinue sharing deep sky images because we have all achieved perfection and the images really start looking the same.... that would be kinda sad, seems like an obvious conclusion for the masses but may very well effect us also....instead of a personal challenge it will devolve in to what robotic system you can afford initially and then eventually everything will look perfect. I may enjoy sharing my Vespera images when I get it but I certainly won’t be able to accept any credit, guess I’ll have to name her and tell her how great she is every night :)



#6 bobzeq25

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 10:23 AM

There is one elephant in the room, one day will you discontinue sharing deep sky images because we have all achieved perfection and the images really start looking the same.... that would be kinda sad, seems like an obvious conclusion for the masses but may very well effect us also....instead of a personal challenge it will devolve in to what robotic system you can afford initially and then eventually everything will look perfect. I may enjoy sharing my Vespera images when I get it but I certainly won’t be able to accept any credit, guess I’ll have to name her and tell her how great she is every night smile.gif

And one day everyone will have a robot that can play golf like Dustin Johnson.  The game will vanish as a hobby.

 

I don't think so.  Some people actually still play chess.  <smile>  And traditional astrophotography is as much art as science.

 

Nothing wrong with using a Vespera, there are a lot of ways to do this.  But it will be many years before an app does images like an experienced imager does now.  And it won't be cheap.  Mechanical devices are involved.

 

I certainly won't be around to see it.  I hope you are.

 

Minor point.  I disagree with your assessment of EAA.  It's _much_ easier than traditional astrophotography.  I think the point will come sooner when EAA is more attractive to most people, than it will for robotic solutions.  Person-machine combinations are still the best way to go for many purposes.  I suppose one day a robot will race a Formula One car better than a person with computer assists, that too is a _long_ way off.

 

You might like this book.  A noted cosmologist seriously discusses why people should do science when one day the Universe will cease to exist as an active entity, and it will all have been ultimately futile.

 

"From particles to planets, consciousness to creativity, matter to meaning—Brian Greene allows us all to grasp and appreciate our fleeting but utterly exquisite moment in the cosmos."

 

https://www.amazon.c...uct/B07S3RJ6HP/


Edited by bobzeq25, 10 April 2021 - 10:49 AM.

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#7 dcweaver

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 10:57 AM

Great post!  It's the typical cycle describing resistance to change.  I agree, the trend toward automation in this area will continue, and there will be natural resistance from people who gained "expert" status using previous tools and techniques.  The Varonis Vespera, from your other post, is another step in the massive change cycle CMOS cameras have brought to the hobby.

 

https://www.cloudyni...vaonis-vespera/

  

CMOS cameras with very low read noise, opened the door to short exposure imaging.  In doing so, they took some of the elite status away from long exposure astrophotography.  Don't get me wrong, images produced by a skilled long exposure imager are much better, but short exposures and stacking opened the door to the masses using low cost mounts that are "good enough".

  
Another example is how CMOS cameras replaced "re-purposed" security cameras with analog output.  Holdouts, clinging to what they know, describe a continuing "war" between digital and analog users.  Looking at where things stand today, it's apparent the war, if there ever was one, was fought and decided several years ago.  The only thing that remains is the resistance to change illustrated by your graphic.  There are several current posts that fall into the denial, anger, and bargaining phases of this cycle.


Edited by dcweaver, 10 April 2021 - 05:04 PM.

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#8 GSBass

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 10:59 AM

Yours is certainly a valid point and a lot depends on how fast the market moves and the sheer talent hired by the companies doing it. But you don’t have to look any further than the iPhone to see how advanced computational photography has come in just a few years, has it destroyed the dslr hobby? No, but many professional photographer are now using an iPhone for some of their shots because it simply is better under some conditions. But the transition to something better in our hobby is beyond just the best shot, who is going to spend 6 hours or even days putting a photo together when a robot gives you the same result in a couple of hours

And one day everyone will have a robot that can play golf like Dustin Johnson.  The game will vanish as a hobby.

 

I don't think so.  Some people actually still play chess.  <smile>

 

Nothing wrong with using a Vespera, there are a lot of ways to do this.  But it will be many years before an app does images like an experienced imager does now.  And it won't be cheap.

 

I certainly won't be around to see it.  I hope you are.

 

Minor point.  I disagree with your assessment of EAA.  It's _much_ easier than traditional astrophotography.  I think the point will come sooner when EAA is more attractive to most people, than it will for robotic solutions.  Person-machine combinations are still the best way to go for many purposes.  I suppose one day a robot will race a Formula One car better than a person with computer assists, that too is a _long_ way off.

 

You might like this book.  He seriously discusses why people should do science when one day the Universe will cease to exist as an active entity, and it will all have been ultimately futile.

 

https://www.amazon.c...uct/B07S3RJ6HP/



#9 roelb

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 11:03 AM

I'm happy to not being a EAA robot laugh.gif


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#10 dcweaver

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 11:07 AM

I love how Roel is able to make his point in one or two sentences, drop the mic, and walk off the stage!  Always leaves me smiling!


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#11 GSBass

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 11:15 AM

Yes and cmos will continue to advance making robotic imaging even more capable, I had thought the price point would keep this from getting more popular for a while but now that someone has broken the 1500 barrier I think it does start to change things as far as the speed of which other companies start designing these systems. The Vaonis Kickstarter was only trying to raise 150,000 and they got 2.5 million, I think it’s safe to say that was a topic of conversation in many board rooms

Great post!  It's the typical cycle describing resistance to change.  I agree, the trend toward automation in this area will continue, and there will be natural resistance from people who gained "expert" status using existing tools and techniques.  The Varonis Vespera, from your other post, is another step in the massive change cycle CMOS cameras have brought to the hobby.

 

https://www.cloudyni...vaonis-vespera/

  

CMOS cameras with very low read noise, opened the door to short exposure imaging.  In doing so, they took some of the elite status away from long exposure astrophotography.  Don't get me wrong, images produced by a skilled long exposure imager are much better, but short exposures and stacking opened the door to the masses using low cost mounts that are "good enough".

  
Another example is how CMOS cameras replaced "re-purposed" security cameras with analog output.  Holdouts, clinging to what they know, describe a continuing "war" between digital and analog users.  Looking at where things stand today, it's apparent the war, if there ever was one, was fought and decided several years ago.  The only thing that remains is the resistance to change illustrated by your graphic.  There are several current posts that fall into the denial, anger, and bargaining phases of this cycle.



#12 GSBass

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 11:18 AM

I guess that puts him in the bargaining phase :)

I love how Roel is able to make his point in one or two sentences, drop the mic, and walk off the stage!  Always leaves me smiling!


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#13 Rob Willett

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 08:38 AM

I can remember the first iPhone (hell I remember the first mobile phone, the first 8 bit CPU, Wolfenstein 3D, PS-1, I even remember my first email in 1983. gulp).

 

Everybody laughed at it, especially Blackberry, The Blackberry was the must-have phone, I had a couple for work at IBM and had no issues with it. The first iPhones were limited, had poor displays, poor battery, an OS that was limited, no real development capability as Stee Jobs was convinced HTML was all that was needed. I could go on...

 

The latest iPhone 12 has multiple lenses, 256GB+ memory, HD display, multicore processors, face recognition and runs 5G. And for an extra bonus pointsm, it doesn't appear to flex or demand that you hold it in a certain way to work. (The battery is still rubbish though). For most people, that phone is good enough for most of their photos, it's good enough for most everything. Olympus has sold their camera division, Nikon is struggling, FUJI is doing well through good products and a strong retro brand image, the X100 (I have one), the X Pro 2 etc.

 

Technology has driven us so fast, the expensive systems that do poor AP stuff now, is just the start, technology will drive it cheaper and cheaper (if and only if) there is demand. The techies will work out how to reduce the cost of manufacturing of high precision gears through clever monitoring, calibration and feedback. Imagine a chip that has a neural network on, solely to monitor the PEC on your gears and motors and correct it.

 

I have no idea if this is feasible, but if the demand is there, somebody will build it. If that chip gets down to 10c or 6p or whatever and then is linked to one of the new ARM chips which are dirt cheap to design and make (dirt cheap is relative to building the latest Intel monster), then you have a simple (relatively speaking), and cheap system for AP.

 

Do not underestimate how quickly this may come in. I don't remember buggy whip makers, but I can recall Nokia and Blackberry who did not adapt to the change in the mobile phone business. Where are they now?

 

Just my thoughts, back to my work presentation.

 

Rob


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#14 GSBass

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 09:28 AM

Aside from simply just being successful in selling a product, it is your choice of gifted engineers and designers that will make or break you, it is very hard to speculate about the market size but these devices do seem to be attractive to first timers, a little less of an embrace by people who have been in the hobby a while. Vespera may change that depending on how things go once we get it in our hands. Can’t help but think the true test of how this will go is when the established deep pocket companies in our hobby enter the game. 
I do think they will but it’s a danger they could try to make it too cheap in order to get it under the Christmas tree. A cheap scope kinda ruined my astronomy ambitions at an early age, it was not til much later that I discovered what a quality scope was like

I can remember the first iPhone (hell I remember the first mobile phone, the first 8 bit CPU, Wolfenstein 3D, PS-1, I even remember my first email in 1983. gulp).

 

Everybody laughed at it, especially Blackberry, The Blackberry was the must-have phone, I had a couple for work at IBM and had no issues with it. The first iPhones were limited, had poor displays, poor battery, an OS that was limited, no real development capability as Stee Jobs was convinced HTML was all that was needed. I could go on...

 

The latest iPhone 12 has multiple lenses, 256GB+ memory, HD display, multicore processors, face recognition and runs 5G. And for an extra bonus pointsm, it doesn't appear to flex or demand that you hold it in a certain way to work. (The battery is still rubbish though). For most people, that phone is good enough for most of their photos, it's good enough for most everything. Olympus has sold their camera division, Nikon is struggling, FUJI is doing well through good products and a strong retro brand image, the X100 (I have one), the X Pro 2 etc.

 

Technology has driven us so fast, the expensive systems that do poor AP stuff now, is just the start, technology will drive it cheaper and cheaper (if and only if) there is demand. The techies will work out how to reduce the cost of manufacturing of high precision gears through clever monitoring, calibration and feedback. Imagine a chip that has a neural network on, solely to monitor the PEC on your gears and motors and correct it.

 

I have no idea if this is feasible, but if the demand is there, somebody will build it. If that chip gets down to 10c or 6p or whatever and then is linked to one of the new ARM chips which are dirt cheap to design and make (dirt cheap is relative to building the latest Intel monster), then you have a simple (relatively speaking), and cheap system for AP.

 

Do not underestimate how quickly this may come in. I don't remember buggy whip makers, but I can recall Nokia and Blackberry who did not adapt to the change in the mobile phone business. Where are they now?

 

Just my thoughts, back to my work presentation.

 

Rob



#15 Broglock

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 09:56 AM

I'm happy to not being a EAA robot laugh.gif

Wow, me too! waytogo.gif

 

I may not completely agree with the OP,  I do agree that technology today updates at a faster pace than in the past. Evidence would be what many of us have seen in our short life time compared to our parents or grandparents. How many here can remember Saturday morning cartoons, Sunday morning comics, B&W television, or having only the few VHF TV channels. I mean a 55" flat screen weighs less, takes up less space than the 25" console tube type TV and can be hung on the wall and display art or your favorite pictures when not being used. Who here (that even remembers) could have imagined the Dick Tracy watch would be a reality. We are about to fly a remote control helicopter/drone on Mars this weekbow.gif ! So, certainly there will be change and out of the change there will be great advances does this mean we humans become completely obsolete? I sincerely hope not and have argued this point on many occasions. 

 

Change is inevitable and Extinction is always a Meteor or Comet away!lol.gif


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#16 GSBass

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 10:23 AM

I did make the statement it was coming fast but careful not to say how fast... product cycles are long in our hobby and I’m unaware of any of the major players jumping in yet, so far just a couple of upstarts.... so it is just speculation largely fueled by the interest generated and Stellina image quality, but probably the largest factor is I don’t think anyone was expecting the price point hit by Vespera to come so quickly, 1500 is practically nothing in our hobby, when it ships and if it’s good I think a many of us will get one and it will probably have a good resale value to boot.... I also see a lot of older people who are downsizing, can’t see as well as they use to etc, this will allow them to enjoy the hobby much longer even if they are bed ridden they can have someone sit it on the porch and spend the night imaging, kinda makes me glad that when I upgraded my iPad last time I chose a 12.9” model... should make it even more enjoyable

Wow, me too! waytogo.gif

 

I may not completely agree with the OP,  I do agree that technology today updates at a faster pace than in the past. Evidence would be what many of us have seen in our short life time compared to our parents or grandparents. How many here can remember Saturday morning cartoons, Sunday morning comics, B&W television, or having only the few VHF TV channels. I mean a 55" flat screen weighs less, takes up less space than the 25" console tube type TV and can be hung on the wall and display art or your favorite pictures when not being used. Who here (that even remembers) could have imagined the Dick Tracy watch would be a reality. We are about to fly a remote control helicopter/drone on Mars this weekbow.gif ! So, certainly there will be change and out of the change there will be great advances does this mean we humans become completely obsolete? I sincerely hope not and have argued this point on many occasions. 

 

Change is inevitable and Extinction is always a Meteor or Comet away!lol.gif



#17 GSBass

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 10:32 AM

Might have to eventually donate a Stellina to a nursing home, would certainly be a thrill for some of them, I think Stellina allows 20 to connect, Vespera is limited to 5



#18 dcweaver

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 10:46 AM

lol.gif  This is a fun discussion.  Not like a lot of them on this forum where people take things too seriously.  Reminds me of the old Popular Mechanics and Popular Science articles that would speculate on the future, complete with artists renditions of people standing on Mars.

 

If you think about it, automation of the imaging process is already here.  It takes the form of Astrophotography Tool (APT) and Sequence Generator Pro.  These allow a user to "program" what they want to do, and effectively walk away.  You can even do it from halfway around the world with internet connections.  It's not quite complete yet, and requires a degree of "babysitting", but automation is closer than people think.  In fact, I work in an industry where we make a living from automated, robotic imaging.  It just hasn't made its way fully into the astronomy hobby due to cost. 

 

But as advanced as that is, even those applications require a level of human intervention from time-to-time.  I think we are safe from Terminators for the time being grin.gif


Edited by dcweaver, 11 April 2021 - 10:58 AM.

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#19 GSBass

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 11:00 AM

Interesting, although Stellina is designed to work on its own wifi network, I see no technical hurdles to controlling it from the web if they chose to implement that, obviously you would have to have someone take it outside and turn it on but no reason why you could not select targets and watch the images come in on other side of the world, imagine just a matter of the scope having an iP number and using a remote vpn.... or however that works when you access your home computer

lol.gif  This is a fun discussion.  Not like a lot of them on this forum where people take things too seriously.  Reminds me of the old Popular Mechanics and Popular Science articles that would speculate on the future, complete with artists renditions of people standing on Mars.

 

If you think about it, automation of the imaging process is already here.  It takes the form of Astrophotography Tool (APT) and Sequence Generator Pro.  These allow a user to "program" what they want to do, and effectively walk away.  You can even do it from halfway around the world with internet connections.  It's not quite complete yet, and requires a degree of "babysitting", but automation is closer than people think.  In fact, I work in an industry where we make a living from automated, robotic imaging.  It just hasn't made its way fully into the astronomy hobby due to cost. 

 

But as advanced as that is, even those applications requires a level of human intervention from time-to-time.  I think we are safe from Terminators for the time being grin.gif


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#20 GSBass

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 11:31 AM

I kinda wish they had implemented it that way, I can see a scenario of my daughter calling me from college a 100 miles away and asking me to put the scope out for her



#21 jprideaux

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 06:43 PM

As for the number of people that can connect, I it will be interesting to see how these devices like Stellina, Vespera, evScope will actually be used for star-parties and public outlook.  I know that for the public outreach I used to attend before things were shut-down for covid had a lot of children and "hurried" parents that probably would not have the patience to download an app and connect.  It might be better to just have the astronomer either have a mounted tablet or second larger screen connected to their tablet for people to view.  Hopefully things will be more or less back to normal in a few months.


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