Tuesday 3 May 2016

Flexible Camera Could Change the way We Take Photos


Silicone – A New Type of Camera Lens, Wrapped Around Things

Cameras are amazing but have not changed much for the last 100 years and one is still limited to shooting whatever is before you. However a piece of silicone is a new type of camera lens which can be wrapped around things, totally extending its point of view. This camera technology does not seem to be a pocket size or pretty as smartphones manufactured by Apple or Samsung but the A4 sized sheet of silicone that computer scientists from the Columbia University School of Engineering will be presenting at the International Conference on Computational Photography in May.

This would turn the world of photography upside down. The silicone is said to be a flexible layer which is protected with optical lenses that detect light and combine to portray an image of the environment. On attaching them to a silicone sheet, the lens array tends to become flexible, overcoming a main difficulty. Gaps seem to appear between the signals from the lens with the image being blurred, if they do not change their focal lengths when the sheet is bent. The silicone sheet tends to enable specially adapted lenses to alter their focal lengths automatically when the sheet is bent which means that the image is capable of staying in focus.

Cameras to Be More Attractive

The team intends making the camera more attractive, producing them like rolls of plastic or like the shape of credit cards which can be utilised to wrap around things in daily life, like lamppost or cars in order to get a 360 degree view of the environment. Project leader Shree K. Nayer states that present day cameras tend to capture the world from a single point in space.

While the camera industry had made remarkable progress in shrinking the camera to a tiny device with increasing image quality, it has been exploring a radically different approach to imaging. It is believed that there are various applications for cameras which are large in format but very thin and highly flexible. Dr Shree Nayar, director of Columbia University’s Computer Vision Lab, tends to study the science related to photography and wondered one day that it would be nice if there were cameras that could be wrapped around things. This led his team to go and make one.

Camera Lens – Vaguely Like Flexible Solar Tile

Researchers at the lab comprising of research engineer Daniel Sims as well as postdoctoral researcher Yonghao Yue had explored this question with their Flexible Sheet Camera study. The team had made a flexible lens array which could be wrapped around the daily object and capture unique images, mounting in way that was not possible earlier. Nayar, one of the study leaders had placed the project in the view of the present limitations. The camera lens seems vaguely like a flexible solar tile and when bent, it tends to capture an image which may appear changed though is still a high quality full picture.

Silicone was used by the team for the prototype sheet camera which enable the focal length of each lens differ with the curvature of the sheet, which means that there is no missing information as the lens bends. The main issue was in the material. Nayar had informed DT that if one chooses the right material and the right shape, the material itself bends in a way which you need and that gives it the right optical properties without adding any additional engineering. The silicone lens was the outcome of much testing and research.

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