Apple eliminated the 3.5mm headphone jack from its current crop of iPhones in part to free up valuable real estate inside the handset that could one day allow them to further slim down the device. Hitachi is essentially looking to do the same (reduce thickness and weight) although instead of the 3.5mm jack, its work is focused (no pun intended) on camera technology.

With its new camera technology, Hitachi says you'll be able to capture images without using a lens and adjust focus after the fact by replacing the lens with a film imprinted with a concentric-circle pattern. That may sound a lot like the light-field camera Lytro was peddling a few years back but Hitachi says such cameras are quite thick as they need a special lens.

Processing images from a light-field camera also incurs a heavy computational load. By using a technique based on the principle of Moiré fringes (that are generated from superposition of concentric circles), Hitachi's solution is both thinner and lighter and its computational load is 1/300 that of a light-field image.

Hitachi hopes to utilize the camera technology in a broad range of applications such as work support, automated driving and human-behavior analysis with mobile devices, vehicles and robots. For mobile devices specifically, the technology could bring an end to the unsightly camera bumps that populate many of today's flagship smartphones.