Durham, NC—A team of researchers at Duke University, led by David Brady, are developing a “compact” camera that generates images with more than a billion pixels (gigapixel) of resolution.
In the past, gigapixel images have been generated by creating very large film negatives and scanning them at extremely high resolutions, or by taking separate images and stitching them together on a computer. The first with portable dimensions, Brady’s camera, name Aware, has 98 10MP micro-cameras, similar to those in smartphones, that are positioned behind a shared lens. This allows different portions of the image to be processed separately and to correct for known distortions.
Portable gigapixel cameras could be useful in augmenting image stabilization. “Also, if you increase the resolution, you increase the chances of automated recognition and artificial intelligence systems being able to accurately recognize things in the world,” commented Illah Nourbakhsh, lead researcher for a project called Gigapan at Carnegie Mellon University.
The journal Nature reported on Brady’s project, stating that with a prototype camera Brady’s team took a one gigapixel image of Pungo Lake in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge showing that individual swans in the extreme distance can be resolved. The camera processed the image in 18 seconds, but Brady said that the camera’s speed would improve as graphical processors do.
Right now, the prototype is about the size of a TV studio camera, with most of the unit dictated to equipment that cools the circuit boards. “In the near term, we think this concept of a micro-camera imaging system is the future of cameras,” said Brady. By the end 2012, his team plans to be able to produce and sell 100 units per year, at about $100,000, which is similar to the cost of a broadcast TV camera.