Researchers develop 50 Gigapixel camera

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Electrical engineers from Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Arizona have developed a 50 Gigapixel camera. The device contains 98 tiny cameras, all synchronised, to obtain the Gigapixel resolution, which is five times better than 20/20 human vision over a 120° horizontal field.

The researchers believe that within five years, as the electronic components of the cameras become miniaturised and more efficient, the next generation of Gigapixel cameras should be available to the general public.

The team’s research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

‘Each one of the micro-cameras captures information from a specific area of the field of view,’ explained David Brady at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, who led the work. ‘A computer processor essentially stitches all this information into a single highly detailed image.’

The software that combines the input from the micro-cameras was developed by an Arizona team led by Michael Gehm, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona.

In terms of engineering the optics, Gehm said: ‘Our current approach, instead of making increasingly complex optics, is to come up with a massively parallel array of electronic elements. A shared objective lens gathers light and routes it to the micro-cameras that surround it, just like a network computer hands out pieces to the individual work stations. Each gets a different view and works on their little piece of the problem. We arrange for some overlap, so we don’t miss anything.’

The prototype camera itself is 2.5 feet square and 20 inches deep. Only about three per cent of the camera is made of the optical elements, while the rest is made of the electronics and processors needed to assemble all the information gathered. Obviously, the researchers said, this is the area where additional work to miniaturise the electronics and increase their processing ability will make the camera more practical for everyday photographers.

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