Engineers build 50 gigapixel camera

Jun 20, 2012
This is a gigapixel camera. Credit: Duke University Imaging and Spectroscopy Program

By synchronizing 98 tiny cameras in a single device, electrical engineers from Duke University and the University of Arizona have developed a prototype camera that can create images with unprecedented detail.

The camera's resolution is five times better than 20/20 over a 120 degree horizontal field.

The new has the potential to capture up to 50 gigapixels of data, which is 50,000 . By comparison, most consumer cameras are capable of taking with sizes ranging from 8 to 40 megapixels. Pixels are individual "dots" of data – the higher the number of pixels, the better resolution of the image.

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

Details of the new camera were published online in the journal Nature. The team's research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

This is a sample gigapixel image. Credit: Duke University Imaging and Spectroscopy Program

The camera was developed by a team led by David Brady, Michael J. Fitzpatrick Professor of Electric Engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, along with scientists from the University of Arizona, the University of California – San Diego, and Distant Focus Corp.

"Each one of the microcameras captures information from a specific area of the field of view," Brady said. "A computer processor essentially stitches all this information into a single highly detailed image. In many instances, the camera can capture of things that photographers cannot see themselves but can then detect when the image is viewed later."

"The development of high-performance and low-cost microcamera optics and components has been the main challenge in our efforts to develop gigapixel cameras," Brady said. "While novel multiscale lens designs are essential, the primary barrier to ubiquitous high-pixel imaging turns out to be lower power and more compact integrated circuits, not the optics."

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

"Traditionally, one way of making better optics has been to add more glass elements, which increases complexity," Gehm said. "This isn't a problem just for imaging experts. Supercomputers face the same problem, with their ever more complicated processors, but at some point the complexity just saturates, and becomes cost-prohibitive."

This is David Brady. Credit: Duke University Photography

"Our current approach, instead of making increasingly complex optics, is to come up with a massively parallel array of electronic elements," Gehm said. "A shared objective lens gathers light and routes it to the microcameras 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 itself is two-and-half feet square and 20 inches deep. Interestingly, only about three percent 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 miniaturize the electronics and increase their processing ability will make the camera more practical for everyday photographers.

"The camera is so large now because of the electronic control boards and the need to add components to keep it from overheating," Brady said, "As more efficient and compact electronics are developed, the age of hand-held gigapixel photography should follow."

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More information: www.nature.com/nature/journal/v486/n7403/full/nature11150.html

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User comments : 21

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daveyclayton
not rated yet Jun 20, 2012
Nature are reporting this as a one gigapixel camera!
Eric_B
3 / 5 (4) Jun 20, 2012
First thought that came to mind; Space Telescope.

Second thought; PORN!
baudrunner
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2012
And I thought that the scene in Bladerunner where Decker zooms in on the photograph was a little far-fetched. It actually still is, come to think of it, since he is getting the information from a print.
I guess image enhancement techniques could do that job, though. The future will see those image enhancement technologies used with these giga-pixel cameras to read the license plates of flivvers flitting about on planets outside of our own solar system.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2012
I guess image enhancement techniques could do that job, though.

probably not. Traditional film is also grainy (about the equivalent of a 15 megapixel digital camera). The print in Blade runner would have to have been far better than that - and 3D as he pans around to view stuff behind an obstruction.
Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (4) Jun 20, 2012
antialias_physorg recollection is likely flawed
The print in Blade runner would have to have been far better than that - and 3D as he pans around to view stuff behind an obstruction.
Dont think so, if I remember correctly, he was looking at the detail of a reflection in a glass vase in the corner of a bathroom, this allowed him to see who was in the bath...

I was told many years ago that standard colour film was closer to 25-30MPixels by a commercial photographer and slower film could achieve 100MPixel or so depending on the costs and for the de-facto 35mm size, B/W was supposedly even better. But dont quote me ;-)

bredmond
not rated yet Jun 20, 2012
..., if I remember correctly, he was looking at the detail of a reflection in a glass vase in the corner of a bathroom, this allowed him to see who was in the bath...


as i remember, it was in a mirror and also around a corner.

anyway, what i am really looking forward to is when they put this technology on a cellphone along with a micro projector so that i can use my phone for all my devices. makes moving so much easier. traveling would be easier too. i dont have to carry a phone AND a camera when i go to see the grand canyon.
Picard
4 / 5 (4) Jun 21, 2012


Second thought; PORN!


Actually there is only so much detail you would want to see before the human body becomes off-putting.
kris2lee
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2012
i dont have to carry a phone AND a camera when i go to see the grand canyon.


Forget it. A camera will always have an order of magnitude better image quality. So when you really care about image quality then you take the camera with you.

When you are after couple of shots then you can take the cellphone already today.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (4) Jun 21, 2012
40 gigapixel with 24 bits of color information per pixel means 120 gigabytes per image.

"The researchers believe that within five years, as the electronic components of the cameras become miniaturized and more efficient, the next generation of gigapixel cameras should be available to the general public." - Article

Sorry. Worthless for the General Public.
MarkyMark
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2012
i dont have to carry a phone AND a camera when i go to see the grand canyon.


Forget it. A camera will always have an order of magnitude better image quality. So when you really care about image quality then you take the camera with you.
y.

For now Thats true. But in future.......?
Jason_Cook
not rated yet Jun 21, 2012
My what a big camera you have...
All the better to watch every thing you do without you knowing from space. All I can think of is that episode of South Park with TSA in the bathrooms checking everyone before the use it. The security cameras going back to one guy watching everyone jerking it. If you think about it DARPA is SCARY. Its like taking the Manhattan project and spreading it out to every college campus with a science lab.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 21, 2012
i dont have to carry a phone AND a camera when i go to see the grand canyon.

Why would you carry a phone? Isn't that the point of going on holidays - to get away from it all?
Raygunner
5 / 5 (3) Jun 21, 2012
I can see it now: "I got my gigapixel camera at Walmart, took it on vacation to New Jersey, and now I'm posting all 500 pics to my Facebook page!" More and more useless junk to fill up those internet data pipes.

Now I think multi-gig CCTV cams on every street corner in the USA is much more likely. That way HLS and the govt can perform detailed and complete facial recog on everything that moves, including tracking to/from destinations. All automated of course. Computers could/would perform 24/7 tracking and surveillance of ALL American citizens "to make sure everyone is behaving", or whatever excuse they come up with. Not against the law because they are surveillance cameras in a public space (and able to see into nearby windows). Get ready folks - its coming! And I'm seeing a great business opportunity here...!
rynox
5 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2012
First thought that came to mind; Space Telescope.

Second thought; PORN!


If they put a camera like that in space, it won't be pointed away from earth. :(
SteveL
5 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2012
Now I think multi-gig CCTV cams on every street corner in the USA is much more likely. That way HLS and the govt can perform detailed and complete facial recog on everything that moves, including tracking to/from destinations. All automated of course. Computers could/would perform 24/7 tracking and surveillance of ALL American citizens "to make sure everyone is behaving", or whatever excuse they come up with. Not against the law because they are surveillance cameras in a public space (and able to see into nearby windows). Get ready folks - its coming! And I'm seeing a great business opportunity here...!


Looks like George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four missed the date by a generation or so. Of course I think George borrowed heavily from WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
El_Nose
not rated yet Jun 21, 2012
@rynox -- ever heard of the GAIA telescope ??
teamezazzu
not rated yet Jun 22, 2012
DHS AUTO TRACKING CITY WIDE

Watch --- Wide Area Airborn Surveillance: Opportunities and Challenges - Gerard Medioni

on youtube. What about showing the auto-tracking software used to track all moving
objects across the entire frame or the video of automatic object
recognition tracking every car on the freeway, or perhaps all this is
why all the license plates are blurred and there are no aerial
perspectives? DHS appears to be attempting to integrate WASS (wide area
surveillance system) and Persistics (tracking software) with systems
like "Tentacle" to coordinate hand-off of tracked individuals from WASS
(exteriors) to tracking individuals inside buildings (interiors),
thereby circumventing line-of-sight limitations of UAVs in civilian
domestic airspace. Domestic WASS footage to e processed in Bluffdale,
Utah at NSA data processing center.

Source: The Inquirer (http://s.tt/1fnCr)
Raygunner
not rated yet Jun 23, 2012
DHS AUTO TRACKING CITY WIDE

Watch --- Wide Area Airborn Surveillance: Opportunities and Challenges - Gerard Medioni


I was being much to simplistic in my original comments. In addition to giga-CCTV cams, several systems will work together along with region-wide mesh networks, wireless, sat, 24/7 aerial drones (big, small, and eventually insect-sized) and tie-in's to local hard-wired networks to pass the huge amounts of data required to continually monitor "free" American people. We will be bathed in both surveillance and radiation. And computers will be the only eyes capable of disseminating these terabytes/sec of info to parse out threats as defined in some super-secret government behavioral algorithm. Paranoia creeps in like a slow fog and will become the new America. Why? Because Pandora's box has been opened and it is impossible to turn back. There, I feel much better now knowing I just made someone's (or something's) "watch-list". How did WE allow it to come to this?
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2012
How did WE allow it to come to this?

Freedom requires diligence and sacrifice. Meanwhile we, generally, as a society have been watching reruns on the boob tube.
Raygunner
not rated yet Jun 27, 2012
SteveL - you nailed it. Kids today go "What's the big deal?" and go back to texting and gaming and boob-tubing - not-so-innocent sheep being led willingly and uncaring into the big bro future. Even the term "big bro" could be spun into a cool phrase that kids would accept - as dire as it is to those of us who can remember our freedoms.

All spun from this gigapixel camera article but it needed to be said. Off my soapbox now! Thank you I'm done!
tanmoy705
not rated yet Jun 28, 2012
what a camera ! what would be the size of single pic at highest setting ?

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