Omni-focus video camera to revolutionize industry

May 04, 2010
The resulting image shown in Figure 1a (taken with a prototype using two-color video cameras) clearly demonstrates how the omni-focused output dramatically differs from that of a conventional camera, shown in Figure 1b. Note that in the omni-focused image, the fingers in the foreground are so sharply focused that even the fingerprints are easily recognized. Credit: University of Toronto

University of Toronto announced a breakthrough development in video camera design. The Omni-focus Video Camera, based on an entirely new distance-mapping principle, delivers automatic real-time focus of both near and far field images, simultaneously, in high resolution. This unprecedented capability can be broadly applied in industry, including manufacturing, medicine, defense, security -- and for the consumer market.

Inventor and principal investigator of the Omni-focus , Professor Keigo Iizuka of The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, explains that, "the intensity of a point source decays with the inverse square of the distance of propagation. This variation with distance has proven to be large enough to provide depth mapping with . What's more, by using two point sources at different locations, the distance of the object can be determined without the influence of its surface texture." This principle led Professor Iizuka to invent a novel distance-mapping camera, the Divergence-ratio Axi-vision Camera, abbreviated "Divcam," which is a key component of the new Omni-focus Video Camera.

The Omni-focus Video Camera is produced in collaboration with consulting investigator Dr. David Wilkes, president of Wilkes Associates, a Canadian high-tech product development company. It contains an array of color video cameras, each focused at a different distance, and an integrated Divcam. The Divcam maps distance information for every pixel in the scene in real time. A software-based pixel correspondence utility, using prior intellectual property invented by Dr. Wilkes, then uses the distance information to select individual pixels from the ensemble of outputs of the color video cameras, and generates the final "omni-focused" single-video image.

Figure 2 illustrates the omni-focus video camera’s high pixel resolution. Although the two sewing needles were photographed approximately 1.2 meters apart, both are in sharp focus. Note the eye of the back needle, is actually viewed through the eye of the front needle. Credit: University of Toronto

"The Omni-focus Video Camera's unique ability to achieve simultaneous focus of all of the objects in a scene, near or far, multiple or single, without the usual physical movement of the camera's optics, represents a true advancement that is further distinguished in terms of high-resolution, distance mapping, real-time operation, simplicity, compactness, lightweight portability and a projected low manufacturing cost," says Dr. Wilkes.

The camera is still in the research phase. But it's not difficult to imagine how far-reaching an impact the Omni-focus Video Camera could have on several industries. As for the future direction of his research, Professor Iizuka sees the following possibilities:

  1. Application of the Omni-focus Video Camera to TV studio cameras. Consider the example of a musical concert being televised by a major network. Even though the singer is in sharp focus, band members in the background, are invariably out of focus. Conventional video cameras are unable to simultaneously on both the singer and band members in the background. The Omni-focus Video Camera removes this limitation to deliver higher-quality video images and improved quality of experience to potentially millions of TV viewers, worldwide.

  2. Application of the Omni-focus Video Camera to medicine. Says Professor Iizuka, "I'd like to apply the principle of the Omni-focus Video Camera to the design of a laparoscope. It would help doctors at the operating table, if they can see the entire view without touching optics of the laparoscope, especially if dealing with a large lesion."

Explore further: LiquidPiston unveils quiet X Mini engine prototype

Related Stories

New technology could make TV more exciting

Feb 02, 2005

Live TV outside broadcasts that combine real action and computer-generated images could become possible for the first time, thanks to camera navigation technology now under development. The work is opening up the prospect of ...

Zooming in to catch the bad guys

Jun 30, 2009

It's a frequent scene in television crime dramas: Clever police technicians zoom in on a security camera video to read a license plate or capture the face of a hold-up artist. But in real life, enhancing this low-quality ...

Nikon DSLRs can give eye-opening results

Feb 27, 2009

I am no camera buff. I bought my first digital camera only three years ago, and I often prefer to use the 2-megapixel camera in my iPhone than carry around another gadget.

Recommended for you

Scientist develops uncrackable code for nuclear weapons

1 hour ago

Mark Hart, a scientist and engineer in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) Defense Technologies Division, has been awarded the 2015 Surety Transformation Initiative (STI) Award from the National ...

LiquidPiston unveils quiet X Mini engine prototype

Nov 21, 2014

LiquidPiston has a new X Mini engine which is a small 70 cubic centimeter gasoline powered "prototype. This is a quiet, four-stroke engine with near-zero vibration. The company said it can bring improvements ...

Novel robotic walker helps patients regain natural gait

Nov 21, 2014

Survivors of stroke or other neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson's disease often struggle with mobility. To regain their motor functions, these patients ...

Tomorrow's degradable electronics

Nov 20, 2014

When the FM frequencies are removed in Norway in 2017, all old-fashioned radios will become obsolete, leaving the biggest collection of redundant electronics ever seen – a mountain of waste weighing something ...

User comments : 19

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mastergmr
1.8 / 5 (5) May 04, 2010
So a camera that can actually focus?
0rison
3.5 / 5 (4) May 04, 2010
A laser scanner could act as an "omnifocus" laparoscopic camera, and this would not require an array of cameras. Estimating distance from alternate illumination by two point sources is a big restriction on this concept, which -- as described -- requires a lot of equipment.
powerup1
4.1 / 5 (9) May 04, 2010
I'm am amazed at how many worthless critical comments I see posted on this website from people that don't have a clue of the subject matter that they are commenting on.
jonnyboy
2.6 / 5 (5) May 04, 2010
You know the porn industry is lining up to buy these.
david13579
1.3 / 5 (4) May 05, 2010
Why waste time and money on this? It's not like eyes have omnifocus too. The eyes focus on one thing at a time too.
SmartK8
3.7 / 5 (3) May 05, 2010
david13579: Do you have a computer ? It's focused everywhere, I guess you're glad, that you don't have to have a mouse in other hand to move the focus across the screen. What about two or more people watching the same thing ? Like in the cinema, or other projections. I'm not even talking about home made videos which are notoriously badly focused, remember those U.F.O.'s not being in focus for example. On the other hand, sometimes - in the movies usually - it's considered an artistic intent of course.
abhishekbt
5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
It's basically a bunch of cameras working in tandem with the output of the best camera for each distance range chosen.

I don't see why adjectives like
'revolutionize industry' and 'entirely new' are used.

Secondly, is it only me or did anyone else feel that the Sony camera did a better job than this new kid on the block at resolving details of the one object it actually was focusing on?
Kedas
2.3 / 5 (3) May 05, 2010
So a camera that can actually focus?

No, actually the opposite there will be no focus anymore.
lw7av
2.3 / 5 (3) May 05, 2010
Wow! I got similar results when I was a child using a pinhole camera
Hunnter
5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
I'm surprised this kind of thing hasn't been attempted before actually.
I can't count the times i have seen differing focal points being used to decrease of increase the size of people, whether it is on TV with Red Dwarf, or the big screen with Lord Of The Rings.

This will certainly make a lot of lives easier.
And apparently people commenting here are experts on the topic.
Multiple focal points are actually still quite an annoyance in recordings.
Think about the annoying times where some characters back is turned with another person facing them and talking. The focus is either on one or the other and it just looks awful. That is just one example of countless others.
The only ways around it are usually hacks at best, or the usual switching focus between the 2, which just kills any immersion.
The inability for the viewer to focus on whatever part of the scene they want to is a real limiting factor of immersion in video.

HaveYouConsidered
2.3 / 5 (3) May 05, 2010
Removing the usual depth-of-field blurring of, for example, the background musicians mentioned in the article is a desired artistic visual effect, not a "problem". The added complexity of a 100% sharp image will detract from what the camera operator and technical director are, in fact, trying to achieve when using selective focus on a performance art form. To claim otherwise is an example of academic over-specialization and tunnel vision. Prof. Iizuka needs to think up some better applications that this.
david13579
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
david13579: Do you have a computer ? It's focused everywhere, I guess you're glad, that you don't have to have a mouse in other hand to move the focus across the screen. What about two or more people watching the same thing ? Like in the cinema, or other projections. I'm not even talking about home made videos which are notoriously badly focused, remember those U.F.O.'s not being in focus for example. On the other hand, sometimes - in the movies usually - it's considered an artistic intent of course.


Yes, the screen is focused everywhere and that is expected but a camera doesn't have to be focused on all the objects in its field of vision. The eyes can only focus on one thing at a time so even if the camera can focus everywhere, the viewer will focus on one thing at a time when he sees the final product. Only the focus (pun intended) of a picture should be focused. I don't want no picture of me in a crowded place that has focus on the bystanders.
CouchP
3 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
I think the advance will likely revolutionize applications that require machine vision where distance information is not important. For example lining up a large object on a conveyor belt that has multilateral symmetry.
Au-Pu
2.3 / 5 (3) May 09, 2010
Many years ago an amateur photographer in Tasmania with a technological bent invented a camera lens that could keep in clear focus everything from the macro to the micro and this lens was used to make a film on the insect world allowing the photographer to zoom in on the tiny creatures showing them enlarged whilst keeping all the background in focus. I believe that every studio uses this type of lens and that they have done so for a number of years.
My question is what is the difference with this new one or is it simply a variation on the original?
You know sort of re-inventing the wheel.
superhuman
not rated yet May 09, 2010
Finally, it should have been done long ago. I've often wondered why we have to suffer with blur ruining photographs when all the needed light is there to make everything perfectly sharp.
Caliban
not rated yet May 09, 2010
If nothing else- it should make for increased detail-resolution in satellite imaging. That would be a good thing.
Husky
not rated yet May 09, 2010
because you have to move/recombine the pixels/photons, either postprocess them in a digital way or use a fresnel varifocus lens as a analog preprocessor, the digital option has the advantage of tweaking the algoritme for various focal plays...
Erog
not rated yet May 09, 2010
READ the artical!!
This is one more useful ability! Not to be used in Lew of others, or to spite creative use of DOF?!?
I second powerup1 "I'm am amazed at how many worthless critical comments I see posted on this website from people that don't have a clue of the subject matter that they are commenting on."
There are lots of real uses Robotics, macro, and low light (where the use of full detail and responsiveness without the normal limitations of traditional wide DOF is required)
LordOfRuin
not rated yet May 10, 2010
This will be a boon for the 3D cameras. As amazing as the 3D images are, the viewer often wants to look around the pictured scene; however, traditional cameras have to focus on the subject matter, leaving surrounding backgrounds unfocussed. An omni-focal camera would remove that limitation, meaning you could marvel at the 3D spectacle with it all in focus. Brilliant!

Good news indeed.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.