New Gigapixel Camera, Takes Photos 30 Times Better Than Current SLRs

Time for a closeup. An ultra high-def closeup.

An advanced camera powerful enough to shoot one billion pixels of still or video image is currently being tested at Duke University. Details of this research were released in the scientific journal Nature earlier this week.

This "supercamera," as Science Mag has labeled it, is actually composed of 98 smaller cameras that shoot at 14 megapixels and rest in a football-sized sphere. "Pixels are individual 'dots' of data," explains a press release for Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "The higher the number of pixels, the better resolution of the image."

Pictures from the multiple cameras are then stitched together by image processing software on a computer connected to the sphere, creating one highly detailed image. According to the Wall Street Journal, these billion pixel shots generate photos with five times as much detail as what a person with 20/20 vision can see, and produce images 30 times better than the best SLR camera available on the market.

The Department of Defense has funded the research of this device, known formally as the Aware-2, in hopes of using this technology in both aerial and land surveillance, per The Wall Street Journal. The zooming-in capabilities of this camera's images (via supplemental computer software) could provide detailed information once impossible to obtain.

"When you’re in the field, you don’t have to decide what you’re going to study — you can capture as much information as possible and look at it for five years”, says roboticist Illah Nourbakhsh to Nature. He developed Gigapan, which is the software that stitches all of smaller images together.

Nature reports that there have been other gigapixel cameras developed, like the one housed at the University of Hawaii; but none boast a field of view 120 degrees wide and 50 degrees tall like the Aware-2.

If this technology was eventually spread to the general public, a whole new photography world could be created. PC Mag reports that by simply turning on the camera users would be able to collect comprehensive still and video images of the world around them. Media companies might also be able to shoot movies, television shows and sports in defined gigapixels, bringing forth a drastically new viewer experience.

"In many instances, the camera can capture images of things that photographers cannot see themselves but can then detect when the image is viewed later," says developer David Brady from the Pratt School of Engineering.

But it will be some time before this type of technology is available as a handheld camera. Currently, the Aware-2 weighs around 100 pounds and shoots only in black-and-white. The Wall Street Journal reports some industrial gigapixel cameras may be released on a "limited basis in 2013."

For more information on the Aware-2, flip through the images of the camera in the slideshow below. Then let us know what you think in the comments section, or tweet us at @HuffPostTech.

 

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