Researchers from Stanford University are developing a camera with thousands of tiny pixels, where clumps of 256 pixels are covered with their own lens. The lenses can capture images from different angles, producing a high-res, 3-D "depth map" where every object in the image is in focus.
The testing platform for the multi-aperture image sensor chip. Credit: Stanford.
The camera would be about the same size as an ordinary camera, or could even be incorporated into cell phones. That's because the pixels are just 0.7 microns in size, several times smaller than the pixels in ordinary digital cameras. With smaller pixels, more of them can be incorporated onto a chip. On the researchers' prototype, which uses a 3.0-megapixel chip, 12,616 micro-lenses could be built into a single camera.
The technology, developed by electrical engineers Philip Wong, Abbas El Gamal and Keith Fife, could have a wide variety of applications. For example, it could make gigantic photos possible, which require a gigapixel camera - 140 times as many pixels as a typical 7-megapixel camera. The small pixels could enable this degree of pixel density.
Other applications may include facial recognition, biological imaging, 3-D printing, creation of 3-D objects or people to inhabit virtual worlds, or 3-D modeling of buildings. The technology could even be used to give robots an extremely detailed vision to perform tasks that humans don't have the eyes for.
When finished, the camera might even cost less than today's digital cameras because it doesn't rely on a large main lens, which is traditionally the most expensive component. Instead, the researchers would focus on creating the technology to host thousands of tiny lenses on a chip.
Currently, the researchers are investigating fabrication methods for fitting all the micro-pixels on a single camera chip.
via: Stanford University