Startup creates first cellphone array camera

A Californian startup has created a high-resolution cellphone camera that allows the user to focus pictures after taking them.

Pelican Imaging says it’s developed the first prototype array camera for mobile devices – the industry’s thinnest high-resolution camera, and one which could lead to much slimmer smartphones.

It includes the ability for users to interact with the image before and after capturing the shot, allowing them to adjust the focus to sharpen or blur one part of the image. It also allows digital image processing techniques like foveal imaging – where image resolution varies according to fixation points – and programmable frame rates.

“We have been investigating these aspects of computational photography in our laboratory at Stanford for a number of years, through the Stanford Multi-Camera Array, which is big, slow and expensive,” says Professor Marc Levoy of Stanford University.

“Pelican’s solution is small, fast and inexpensive – which makes it a very exciting technology.”

The prototype has 25 cameras, and works by using them all simultaneously to take overlapping pictures, which are then stiched  together. This technique also makes for lighter, brighter images.

It even allows features such as a certain amount of 3D depth, and also facilitates gesture control, opening up the way for a touchless interface.

“What Pelican has developed represents a paradigm shift in imaging and video that has the potential to overcome many of the inherent limitations of mobile cameras,” says Professor Shree Nayar of Columbia University.