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Photographer's dream: A gigapixel camera design

Posting in Design

Would you like to get your hands on a 50 gigapixel camera?

AWARE2 is a prototype camera that has been unveiled by researchers in the United States through a DARPA funded project. By synchronizing 98 tiny cameras in a single device, it is capable of taking photographs with a resolution of up to 50 gigapixels -- 50,000 megapixels -- according to the teams from Duke University.

The goal of the DARPA project is to design a camera that is scalable -- from lower resolution requirements to tens-of-gigapixels.

In collaboration with Duke University, the University of Arizona, the University of California San Diego, Aptina, Raytheon, RPC Photonics, and the Distant Focus Corporation, it has been led by DARPA's Dr. Nibir Dhar, engineer David Brady and professor Michael J. Fitzpatrick after receiving funding from the establishment.

The prototype device is currently capable of capturing 1.4-gigapixels of RAW data at 10fps. The monster camera is constructed from 98 small camera sensors and is currently sized at 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.5m, weighing in at 93kg. A little impractical at the moment and needing its own seat if you intend to fly on your next holiday, it also consumes 426W of power.

Engineer and project leader David Brady said:

"Each one of the microcameras captures information from a specific area of the field of view.

A computer processor essentially stitches all this information into a single highly detailed image. 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."

The camera is currently in production and will be online later this year. The next project, AWARE10, aims to create a 5 - 10 gigapixel camera by the end of the year.

Although it is likely to begin its career in military surveillance, the team hopes that in the future the camera will break into other markets in the future, including for commercial and civilian uses.

The sheer size of the prototype is due to the construction and circuitry necessary to stop overheating. As electronic devices and components become smaller and more efficient, the team hopes that eventually the next generation of gigapixel cameras -- a photographer's dream -- will eventually become public.

For more information, view the video below:

Image credit: Duke University/ DARPA

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure