50,000 Megapixel Camera Designed – 1,000 Megapixel Camera Tested
What’s that in your fancy, expensive digital SLR camera: 40 megapixels? Yawn.
Researchers have designed a camera that could take 50,000-megapixel shots. Though the team has currently built and tested only a 1,000-megapixel (one gigapixel) camera, they are constructing a 10,000-megapixel version and foresee future cameras with much higher resolution.
“Scanning a scene with these cameras, you can see a lot more than if you were actually there,” said electrical engineer David Brady of Duke University, who co-authored a paper detailing the camera’s design published in Nature on June 20.
While mosaic images have been made in the past with gigapixel resolution, there are very few cameras that can take a single gigapixel shot. The Gigapixl project, which aims to compile portraits of cities and monuments across the US, uses a camera with 4-gigapixel resolution.
But achieving such ultra-high resolution requires overcoming many challenges. Past gigapixel arrays are costly, computationally complex, and suffer from geometric aberrations. Brady and his team created their gigapixel camera by thinking small — they synchronized nearly 100 individual microcameras to produce perfect images with lower processing power and fewer problems. Their gigapixel device is powerful enough to read a postage stamp from more than half a mile away.
Working for the Department of Defense’s Darpa agency – which has developed such technological innovations as autonomous cars and the internet – the researchers constructed the two-and-half-foot-square gigapixel camera and have been taking sample images around Seattle, Washington.
The camera’s aperture is actually only a half-inch wide, with the bulk of the camera body being made of microprocessors to handle the information and stitch it together into a coherent image. With advances in computer technology, Brady thinks the size of such a camera could shrink to the point that it could be available in a hand-held device. The gigapixel camera already uses sensors similar to ones in the iPhone, he said.
In the near term, though, a gigapixel camera would most likely be used for security purposes. A single device placed at a sports venue or mall could monitor thousands of people at once and be able to zoom in on any one of them.
It might be something like the scene in the movie Blade Runner, where the protagonist Rick Deckard zooms in closer and closer on a photo to find his target. “I remember seeing that and thinking that would never happen,” said Brady. “But here it is.”
Another possibility would be to have a live feed to a camera mounted in a busy place, like Times Square in New York City. Many different people could check out the view online and zoom in wherever they wanted, exploring countless different scenes.
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