The pixel obsession continues. The gigapixel revolution approaches, representing a future next generation of digital camera. Recently been demonstrated by researchers at Duke University AWARE-2 is the gigapixel shooting creation of Dave Brady who, with DARPA funding, constructed his happy snapper from off the shelf parts.
Not a compact camera, at a little over a half meter square. The camera integrates 98 HD micro-camers, each with 14 megapixel sensor, all grouped around a spherical lens. Together, they take in a field of view 120 degrees wide and 50 degrees tall. By positioning these high quality micro-cameras behind a shared lens, it becomes possible to process different portions of the image separately and to correct for known distortions and see what would normally be hidden.
“Rather than showing a camera angle that the producer lets you see, the viewer will be able to see anything in the scene that they want,” Brady says.
Currently AWARE-2 shoots at approximately 1 gigapixel resolution, Brady expects with the addition of more camera’s 50 gigapixels can be achieved. The team is also working on a super burst mode for the camera, hoping to achieve 10 frames per second video sustained with the next version of AWARE.
Built using off the shelf parts including an 8 GPU computer setup that handles the cameras massive amount of data. Working with the data generated by AWARE-2 is a challenge in itself. Gigapixel images will put a strain on storage and processing power, changing the way we work with still images in the process. AWARE-2 images are so detailed and the multiple sensor angles allow the scene to be explored. What data is worth exploring and how to work with the remaining data easily is still an experiment in research and development.
“In the near term, we think this concept of a micro-camera imaging system is the future of cameras.” By the end of next year, his team hopes to be able to produce and sell 100 units a year, each costing around $100,000, comparable to the cost of a broadcast TV camera.
Multiple angle processing and the ability to see in 3D are possibilities limited only by the available processing power. With more sensors in the future the lens could capture light from many angles allowing the normally hidden parts of a scene to be explored.
With advances in the design, along with mass production tricks applied, the AWARE is the closest candidate for an actual gigapixel camera available to the public. In the not too distant future we may all be shooting entire scenes instead of pictures, at crazy gigapixel resolutions.