I am following a thread on the IIIF Google group forum, ruminating on how IIIF and the Image API might support more advanced image processing. I am probably mis-characterizing, or reading too much into the conversation a bit, but something interesting to me emerged from some of the early comments.

There was the acknowledgement that as stewards of digital images, looking to the future, it’s likely that we will start undertaking image processing - OCR, classification, etc. – on the images we have at our disposal. Perhaps for metadata enrichment, digital humanities work, the possibilities are extensive. IIIF, and the Image API, provide an excellent and standardized way to access images. Image processing is helped by preparing images in particular ways, such as converting to grayscale to help detect nodes and edges, that IIIF might be able to help with. What if the API, in addition to rotating, scaling, selecting, and some limited color options, could help facilitate image processing of our visual resources?

This conversation has been fascinating on many levels.

Robert Casties responded to the thread, pointing out that the project digilib has some methods and functionality that would do just such things. I wasn’t familiar with digilib, but what a neat project! Appears to be out of Germany, dating back to the early to mid 2000’s. In many ways, it mirrors the IIIF ecosystem of image servers, and standardized APIs for requesting these images. Details drift and overlap here and there, but it’s devilishly similar to image servers such as Loris (which we use here at Wayne) or Canteloupe.

IIIF has what it calls the “Image API”, the particular GET parameters used to request images. Digilib appears to have something called the “Scaler API” that does the same. Digilib appears to also support IIIF, perhaps an update to a project that seems to pre-date the IIIF movement, that acknowledges the increasing prevlance of IIIF in the digital repository spheres.

Though I’ve yet to install or interact with digilib, something deep in the fingers and toes tells me I like it. It has a page called, “Ancient History”, in German, which makes sense given where digilib was engendered. In principle and architecture, it very much mirrors what I have found so appealing about IIIF when I first stumbled on it in 2011 or 2012. This “Ancient History” page dates this project back the late 1990’s, where this kind of thinking for serving digital images online was pretty revolutionary.

I’ve strayed a bit from the original impetus for penning this post, that being ruminating on how standards like IIIF can support downstream image processing, but as I like to say, that’s okay! It’s been a fascinating thread to follow, and I’m hoping more will weigh in on how they envision emerging image delivery standards can help get these images into machine learning environements.