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Scientists create flexible sheet camera that captures images as it bends

By Shawn Knight
Apr 18, 2016
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  1. Scientists from Columbia University’s Computer Vision Laboratory have developed a prototype for a device they’re calling a flexible sheet camera.

    The idea is to create a thin and flexible camera that can be affixed or wrapped around everyday objects like lamp posts or even vehicles to create unprecedented imagery that’s simply not possible with conventional cameras. Developing such a camera, as you can imagine, is no easy feat.

    The obvious solution is to create an array of tiny lenses attached to a flexible structure. When such a structure is bent, however, it creates gaps between adjacent lenses that result in lost data. To solve this dilemma, the team used an elastic material to create a lens array in which the focal length of each lens varies with curvature. Or in other words, the lenses themselves are actually bending.

    The 33 x 33 prototype lens array is more proof of concept than anything else, demonstrating the fact that the idea does work. As you’ll see in the above video, the resolution and overall image quality is quite low at this stage but it’s impressive nevertheless.

    In the future, the team envisions a credit card-sized flexible camera that can be bent to adjust the focal length. A flexible sheet camera may also find useful applications in the emerging virtual reality industry where capturing 360-degree imagery is required.

    The team plans to present its prototype at the International Conference on Computational Photography at Northwestern University next month.

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  2. seeprime

    seeprime TS Booster Posts: 100   +86

    Another issue with this early prototype is the thickness appears to be about 25 mm. That's not really a sheet. But, with continuing research really odd shaped cameras will be possible, although possibly pointless.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,204   +1,875

    Definitely has a future if they can improve the sharpness of the image; even if just for experimentation ...
  4. Armanian

    Armanian TS Enthusiast Posts: 43   +19

    I assume cameras like this would be quite good (especially if thinner and lightweight) for space probes, removing weight and space in the process making it cheaper to get off the ground and also allowing space for possibly another instrument. Suppose the same could be said for the mobile, freeing up weight and space allowing for other modifications to take it's space.

    I guess it's got a number of applications that it could be used in places quite well just were not sure right now where.

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