Thought the grain-of-salt-sized camera announced in Germany earlier this year was small? Well, researchers at Cornell have created a camera just 1/100th of a millimeter thick and 1mm on each size that has no lens or moving parts. The Planar Fourier Capture Array (PFCA) is simply a flat piece of doped silicon that cost just a few cents each. After light information is gathered, some fancy mathematical magic (i.e. the Fourier transform) turns the information into a 20×20 pixel “photo”. The fuzzy photo of the Mona Lisa above was shot using this camera.
Obviously, the camera won’t be very useful for ordinary photography, but it could potentially be extremely useful in science, medicine, and gadgets.
Robots might not be able to convey emotions or tell stories through photographs, but one thing they’re theoretically better than humans at is calculating proportions in a scene, and that’s exactly what one robot at India’s IIT Hydrabad has been taught to do. Computer scientist Raghudeep Gadde programmed a humanoid robot with a head-mounted camera to perfectly obey the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. New Scientist writes,
The robot is also programmed to assess the quality of its photos by rating focus, lighting and colour. The researchers taught it what makes a great photo by analysing the top and bottom 10 per cent of 60,000 images from a website hosting a photography contest, as rated by humans.
Armed with this knowledge, the robot can take photos when told to, then determine their quality. If the image scores below a certain quality threshold, the robot automatically makes another attempt. It improves on the first shot by working out the photo’s deviation from the guidelines and making the appropriate correction to its camera’s orientation.
It’s definitely a step up from Lewis, a wedding photography robot built in the early 2000s that was taught to recognize faces.
Late last year we showed you an interesting demonstration of HDR video filmed using two Canon 5D Mark IIs. The cameras captured the exact same scene at different exposure values using a beam-splitter. Now, a new camera called AMP has been developed that captures real-time HDR video using a single lens. The trick is that there are two beam-splitters in the camera that take the light and direct it onto three different sensors, giving the system a dynamic range of 17 stops. Check out some sample clips in the video above — they might be pretty ugly, but the technology here is pretty interesting. Read more…
Researchers in Australia are working on developing a thin piezoelectric film that can be used to convert mechanical energy into electricity. An uber-useful application would be to use the film in existing gadgets, allowing button presses and finger swipes to be used to recharge the device’s battery. One of the lead scientists, Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran, states,
The power of piezoelectrics could be integrated into running shoes to charge mobile phones, enable laptops to be powered through typing or even used to convert blood pressure into a power source for pacemakers – essentially creating an everlasting battery.
Wouldn’t it be crazy if cameras of the future could be powered solely by pressing the shutter button when taking photos (and perhaps other buttons while chimping)?
A company called Lytro has just launched with $50 million in funding and, unlike Color, the technology is pretty mind-blowing. It’s designing a camera that may be the next giant leap in the evolution of photography — a consumer camera that shoots photos that can be refocused at any time. Instead of capturing a single plane of light like traditional cameras do, Lytro’s light-field camera will use a special sensor to capture the color, intensity, and vector direction of the rays of light (data that’s lost with traditional cameras).
[...] the camera captures all the information it possibly can about the field of light in front of it. You then get a digital photo that is adjustable in an almost infinite number of ways. You can focus anywhere in the picture, change the light levels — and presuming you’re using a device with a 3-D ready screen — even create a picture you can tilt and shift in three dimensions. [#]
Try clicking the sample photograph above. You’ll find that you can choose exactly where the focus point in the photo is as you’re viewing it! The company plans to unveil their camera sometime this year, with the goal of having the camera’s price be somewhere between $1 and $10,000… Check out more sample photos here
About a year ago, engineer and photo-enthusiast Morten Hjerde began brainstorming ideas for the next generation of photographic lighting after concluding that most of the lights used by photographers these days are simply glorified light bulbs.
Using embedded electronics and microprocessor programming, he set out to explore ways to create a different kind of light. A light that would go where the current lights could not go. Exploring the possibility and feasibility of actual digital light. Light that could be pushed and tweaked like you push and tweak the pixels on your computer screen. [#]
He set up a company called Rift Labs, and decided to open source the design and software involved in creating this digital light source. The video above provides some interesting background on the project.
Even though it seems like the photo sharing market is saturated with services competing for the world’s photos, the incredible growth of many young companies (e.g. Instagram) shows that there’s still plenty of untapped areas for growth, with mobile sharing being one of the big ones at the moment. A trademark for “Photovine” filed by Google earlier this month seems to suggest that the search giant is looking to expand beyond Picasa. Read more…
I’m not sure how useful this would be for most people, but it’s a neat look at the kinds of technologies people are working on to enrich our photo sharing experience. Pass-Them-Around is an app developed by researchers at Nokia that lets you share digital photographs with friends sitting around a table as if you had physical prints sitting in front of you. The phones can also be placed side by side to act as larger displays for the photos.
Mobile photo sharing star Instagram just announced its 5 millionth member and will soon pass 100 million photos, but their domination of the market may not last much longer. According to TechCrunch, Facebook — a service that receives 6 billion photos a month and stores 100 billion photos total — is currently working on a feature-packed iPhone app that may soon be ubiquitous on iPhones.
The information comes from 50MB of images and documents leaked to the blog, and TechCrunch says that the app can be described as Path meets Instagram meets Color meets With. Unlike the legions of photo sharing apps struggling to capture users, Facebook can simply tap its 600+ million users to instantly dominate the market — much like it did with photo sharing on the web.
What if you could take perfect group photographs by first shooting multiple frames and then selecting the best portions of each one? Microsoft amazed us with this concept last year with its Photo Fuse technology, and now we may soon be seeing something similar coming to mobile phone cameras (and hopefully compact cameras as well). Imaging technology company Scalado gave the above demonstration at a conference earlier this month showing off Rewind, a super-useful feature that shoots a burst of full-res photos, then lets you select the best faces for each person in the image. Next up on our wishlist: Content Aware Fill.