Scientists have managed to produce flexibility in a camera which is everything that any shutterbug could have wished for. It involves a radical change in imaging.
A group of experts at Columbia Engineering have invented a new sheet camera that is very flexible. What this essentially means is that it can be clasped on to and wrapped around any object in order to capture images.
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Such images cannot be taken with conventional cameras. It involves a flexible lens array that changes in accordance with the optical specs when the sheet camera is bent out of shape.
High resolution images spanning a wide range of sheet deformities could be taken this way. This new method of taking pics will be demonstrated at the ICCP. Normally, cameras capture images from a standard and fixed region in space.
Although the camera has been shrunk to an unbelievable degree and its image quality has been enhanced beyond our wildest dreams, here a radically alternative methodology is being explored for the first time in the history of our planet. There are applications for a camera that are huge in format yet very thin and extra-flexible.
"Cameras today capture the world from essentially a single point in space," says team leader Shree K. Nayar, T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia Engineering.
"While the camera industry has made remarkable progress in shrinking the camera to a tiny device with ever increasing imaging quality, we are exploring a radically different approach to imaging. We believe there are numerous applications for cameras that are large in format but very thin and highly flexible."
Were such a state of affairs to be as thin as a piece of fabric or plastic shrinkwrap, it could be plastered onto the deformed surface of an object. These objects could range from streetlight poles to home furniture and vehicles and even clothing.
Wide complete images could be captured that have a view worthy of gasping at. Even cameras that are as thin as a credit card could be the norm in the future thanks to this scheme of things.
Such a flex-cam would require twin technologies. These are a flexible detector array and a thin optical scheme. The latter would project an image onto the former.
A rigid lens with a fixed focal length could be affixed onto each detector. However, here merely bending the camera would result in gaps between the images that come out as a result.
The missing data would prove to be problematic. In order to find a solution to this issue, the group of scientists developed an adaptive lens array. It was made of elastic material that enables the focal length to match the surface it wraps itself around.
This automatically deletes any gaps in the gorgeous pics that come out in the end. The lens is a passive device though since it does not employ any complex mechanical or electrical techniques.
The research was conducted in Nayar's Computer Vision Laboratory and was funded by the Office of Naval Research.
"The adaptive lens array we have developed is an important step towards making the concept of flexible sheet cameras viable," Nayar says.
"The next step will be to develop large-format detector arrays to go with the deformable lens array. The amalgamation of the two technologies will lay the foundation for a new class of cameras that expand the range of applications that benefit from imaging."
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Silicone was used in the making of this camera. Flexible sheet cameras remain something which our most fundamental dreams are made of. They may become a reality in the future.