A group of engineers at Duke University has developed an experimental design of a gigapixel camera. The camera, named AWARE2, is part of a project funded by United States Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. The camera lets users zoom into portions of a captured image in extraordinary details. This concept, if made to the consumer market, could fundamentally change the way images are taken and viewed by users. People would be able to take photos without setting the focus, or adjusting zoom level, and useful portions of the image can be taken out later on.
The initial design has 98 micro-cameras with 14 megapixel image sensors each. The micro-cameras are grouped around a shared spherical shape. Each camera with pre-decided focus takes the pictures independently, and the images are compiled to create the final composite image. The whole camera with lens, circuits and cooling systems takes around 0.75 by 0.75 by 0.5 metres in volume and weights around 100 pounds.
The current design only takes pictures in black & white with one gigapixels. Engineers are hoping to build a 10-gigapixel prototype with color by the end of 2012, and build a 50-gigapixel design later on.
The primary application of the device is expected to be in automated military surveillance systems. The designers, however, hopes to start industrial production of the camera on a limited basis by 2013. For a consumer-centric device, the design has be improved a lot and cut down the form factor into a pocket sized one.