Pelican Imaging has been developing a camera module which will revolutionize photography, and enable users to capture a scene without having to focus.
Thanks to the sensor’s multiple optical elements, images are recorded in 3-D, with full foreground-to-background sharpness, which can then be manipulated inside a smartphone or computer.
This advancement will tremendously save time during the photographic process, enabling users to concentrate more on composing a scene.
Forget about two digit megapixels, depth photography is where it is
As pointed out in a recent article about depth of field imaging developments, photography has been steadily shifting to a next, tridimensional dimension.
For the last couple of years, while the photographic industry has playing catch-up with itself with image resolution, Pelican Imaging has been keeping busy researching the emerging technology of depth mapping.
This new advancement will add 3-D mapping to photography. The company promises that by the end of the year, smartphones will integrate it. As Pelican puts it “it’s a smart camera for your smartphone”.
Employs the parallax principle– used also for calculating distances to stars
Instead of a single image sensor, the camera uses a bug-eye-like optical array, containing 16 or 20 sensors, which allow depth information.
The system applies the principle of parallax, the same technique used by astronomers to determine the coordinates of nearby stars.
Using the known distances between each of its sensors and the angle differences from which each sensor views an object, Pelican’s software creates a precise depth map for a scene. In short, it records the distance to each point in the picture.
The photos captured by each sensor are joined together in an 8 megapixel image that can be manipulated in meticulous ways, thanks to the accurate object separation.
Pelican’s small camera is a level-up from Lytro
Previous plenoptic devices, like the Lytro, can’t really compete with this, having extremely limited depth of field.
With its lower, 1 megapixel image resolution, Lytro can only record stills. Pelican Imaging’s camera has video capabilities, which will also benefit from depth mapping.
As opposed to the stand-alone chocolate-bar size Lytro, Pelican’s device is destined to be incorporated into smartphones, boasting a height of only 3 mm.
Its only downside is the lack of zoom, but this is common with smartphone sensors and will probably soon be developed.
The Pelican team is already in talks with phone manufacturers for implementing the technology at consumer scale. In mass volumes, the sensor array will cost under $20 to produce, which is the average price for camera modules used in smartphones.
Founder of Pelican foresees numerous uses
Kartik Venkataraman, founder of Pelican, has a PhD in Computer Graphics/Animation, which he applied over the course of the last 20 years in the fields of Medical Imaging and Extended Depth of Field (EDoF) Camera Systems.
He has been working in digital photography since the early days of the CMOS sensor. Now, beside plans to redefine how images are captured and manipulated by the general public, he also wants to implement the technology into numerous other fields.
As a front facing camera, it will enable users to use hand gestures instead of touch-screen. Likewise, it could be used for security access, through face-detection.
Cars can be equipped with it, replacing both security cameras and proximity sensors.
Last, but not least, Pelican’s focusing-free camera will be an alternative to Kinect, for games that use gesture recording. As opposed to Microsoft’s light-sensitive device, it will also be used successfully outdoors.