Seeing in Gigapixels
As manufacturers of consumer digital cameras compete in increments, adding one or two megapixels to their latest models, David Brady of Duke University is thinking much bigger. Working with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, he is designing and building a camera that could achieve resolutions 1,000 or even 1 million times greater than the technology on the market today.
The goal of reaching giga- or terapixels, says Brady, is currently being held back by the difficulty of designing a spherical lens that will not distort small areas of a scene. His idea is not only to modify the shape of the camera lens — making it aspherical — but to link together thousands of microcameras behind the main lens. Each of these cameras would have its own lens optimized for a small portion of the field of view.
“Now, when you use a camera, you’re looking through a narrow soda straw,” says Brady. “These new cameras will be able to capture the full view of human vision.”
The final result of the three-year project should be a device about the size of a breadbox, though Brady hopes to scale the technology down to create a single-lens reflex camera with a resolution of 50 gigapixels.
The work was presented on October 14, 2009, in a paper titled “Multiscale Optical Systems” at the Optical Society’s Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO).