This Algorithm Deletes the Water From Your Underwater Photos

It gives us a peek at what ocean life would look like on land.

More often than not, our underwater photos are not nearly as beautiful—or clear—as heavily edited professional shots of ocean life. That’s because of the millions of particles in the water and the greenish-blue tint of the ocean.

But that’s soon going to change thanks to a new algorithm that removes the water from underwater photos. Designed by oceanographer and engineer Derya Akkaynak of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the algorithm is called, wait for it, “Sea-thru.”

Before you scoff at the idea of deleting water from underwater photos, hear us out. The invention is actually an incredibly useful tool that will help scientists study marine life. By removing the greenish-blue tint of the photos, it reveals the true color of the ocean’s organisms like fish, mammals, and coral reefs, showing what they would look like on land.

The algorithm doesn’t filter the colors. Instead, it reverses color distortion caused by the water by studying how light travels in the water. It’s an innovative cooperation of imaging, biology, and engineering.


“This method is not photoshopping an image. It’s not enhancing or pumping up the colors in an image,” clarified Akkaynak. “It’s a physically accurate correction instead of a visually pleasing modification.”

What does this mean? The technology would help scientists understand the impacts of climate change on marine systems. The potential of this technology in the Philippines, home to diverse marine life and beautiful coral reefs, is limitless. And we certainly wouldn’t mind digital goggles that let us see the full expanse of the mysterious ocean.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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