Many of us are fairly comfortable with the 12-megapixel photos produced by our digital cameras.
Researchers from Duke University and the University of Arizona have unveiled the world’s first gigapixel camera. This camera is a major exercise in innovation. When we want a bigger picture, we use wide angle lenses that capture a wider visual field but form clear images as well. Increasing sizes of lenses create blurs and the best lenses tend to reduce these blurs as much as they can but they can get pretty expensive. Moreover high resolution lenses are huge in size limiting their practicality.
The gigapixel camera does not use a single lens. Instead it uses multiple off-the-shelf lenses (98 14-megapixel sensors to be exact) to take multiple pictures simultaneously. Then the pictures are quilted together using a software program to create a massive detailed photo. Each gigapixel photo takes up 3 GB of memory (or the space equivalent of a 2-hour HD movie). To give an idea of the nature of the image, a gigapixel photo would be able to take a picture of thousands of people at once yet be able to zoom in each one of them.
At the very basic level, a gigapixel camera changes the nature of images. Cognitive constraints will limit the abilities to absorb what is out there in a single picture but one could go back and interact with the picture to absorb the finer details. It is also possible that software will be able to highlight the cool things in a gigapixel picture. The possible applications are enormous.
Right now, the camera is bulky. It costs about $100,000. But researchers expect the cameras to be miniaturized soon and expect that these cameras should retail for about $1000 in the next decade. This gigapixel camera will enable us to see more than meets the human eye both literally and figuratively.
Professor of Business Administration and
James F. Towey Faculty Fellow and
Executive MBA Academic Director