Amazing super 3-D camera to revolutionise photography

March 20th, 2008 - 3:45 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 20 (IANS) Imagine a camera that sees the world through thousands of tiny lenses, each a miniature camera unto itself. Now stop imagining and start imaging. Researchers at Stanford University already have the prototype of just such a gadget: a 3-megapixel chip, with all its micro-lenses adding up to a staggering 12,616 cameras.

The multi-aperture camera looks and feels like a small cell phone camera. And the final product may cost less than a digital camera, the researchers say, because the quality of its main lens is no longer of paramount importance.

Point such a camera at someone’s face, and it would, in addition to taking a photograph, precisely record the distance to the subject’s eyes, nose, ears or chin.

One obvious potential use of this technology: facial recognition for security purposes, say the researchers, led by Abbas El Gamal.

Details about the dream camera have been published in the latest edition of the journal Digest of Technical Papers.

The new technology may also aid the quest for the huge photos possible with a gigapixel camera - that’s 140 times as many pixels as today’s typical 7-megapixel cameras.

The sensor also can take advantage of smaller pixels in a way that an ordinary digital camera cannot, because camera lenses are nearing the optical limit of the smallest spot they can resolve.

But there are a number of other possibilities for a depth-information camera: biological imaging, 3-D printing, creation of 3-D objects or people to inhabit virtual worlds, or 3-D modelling of buildings.

Gamal and his team have shrunk the pixels on the sensor to 0.7 microns, many times smaller than pixels in standard digital cameras.

Gamal says his multi-aperture sensor has some key advantages. It’s small and doesn’t require lasers, bulky camera gear, multiple photos or complex calibration. And it has excellent colour quality.

Using a pixel smaller than that spot will not produce a better photo. But with the multi-aperture sensor, smaller pixels produce even more depth information, he said.

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