Imagine owning a digital camera with thousands of tiny lenses, each a miniature camera unto itself. You'd get not only a two-dimensional photo but also an electronic "depth map" containing the distance from the device to every object in the picture, a kind of three-D. <b1>
Well, your imagination may soon become a reality. Researchers at the Stanford University are developing such a camera, built around their "multi-aperture image sensor", and if their prototype three-megapixel chip have all its micro lenses in place, they will add up to 12,616 lenses.
"It's like having a lot of cameras on a single chip," according to Keith Fife, one of the researchers.
The multi-aperture camera would look and feel like an ordinary camera, or even a smaller cell phone camera. "The cell phone aspect is important given that the majority of the cameras in the world are now on phones," Fife said.
According to the researchers, the main lens of the multi-aperture camera will focus on its image about 40 microns above the image sensor arrays -- as a result, any point in the photo is captured by at least four of the chip's mini-cameras, producing overlapping views.
"You can choose to do things with that image that you weren't able to do with the regular 2-D image. You can say, 'I want to see only the objects at this distance', and suddenly they'll appear for you. And you can wipe away everything else," the 'ScienceDaily' quoted Fife as saying.
Added lead researcher Abbas El Gamal: "The other advantages of the multi-aperture image sensor is that it can take advantage of smaller pixels in a way that an ordinary digital camera cannot.
"The second benefit involves chip architecture. With a billion pixels on one chip, some of them are sure to go bad, leaving dead spots. But the overlapping views provided by the multi-aperture sensor provide backups when pixels fail."