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Gigapixel Camera Catches the Small Details

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

Technology 61

An anonymous reader sends this quote from Nature: "David Brady, an engineer at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues are developing the AWARE-2 camera with funding from the United States Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (abstract). The camera's earliest use will probably be in automated military surveillance systems, but its creators hope eventually to make the technology available to researchers, media companies and consumers. ... AWARE-2 sidesteps the size issue by using 98 microcameras, each with a 14-megapixel sensor, grouped around a shared spherical lens. Together, they take in a field of view 120 degrees wide and 50 degrees tall. With all the packaging, data-processing electronics and cooling systems, the entire camera is about 0.75 by 0.75 by 0.5 metres in volume. The current version of the camera can take images of about one gigapixel; by adding more microcameras, the researchers expect eventually to reach about 50 gigapixels. Each microcamera runs autofocus and exposure algorithms independently, so that every part of the image — near or far, bright or dark — is visible in the final result. Image processing is used to stitch together the 98 sub-images into a single large one at the rate of three frames per minute."

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61 comments

celebrate! (5, Funny)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391323)

I've always wanted an in-flight UAV to be able to diagnose me with skin cancer.

Why even stitch? (3, Insightful)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 2 years ago | (#40392681)

What is the point of having the images stitched? Google maps doesn't need to. If the observer is going to look at the whole image then they can't look at it on a megapixel screen. The whole thing sounds fishy to me.

What if they group-up 98 AWARE-2 cameras? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393317)

Now they bundled up 98 micro-cameras, each with a 14-megapixel sensor, around a shared spherical lens

What if they do the same with the AWARE-2 camera?

What if they grouped up 98 gigapixel cameras around a shared spherical lens?

How much clearer would the resulted picture be?

Re:What if they group-up 98 AWARE-2 cameras? (3, Funny)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393355)

Is this Camera the reason for the hold up on the iPhone 5?

Re:Why even stitch? (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395415)

Make that: the whole thing sounds 'fisheye'.
Fixed that for 'ya.

Re:Why even stitch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397995)

Because you are going have multiple observers in a control room, with large main screens and auxiliary screens for operators. Another system is called Gorgon's Eye, which had a camera package in a spherical arrangement and had the whole package either on a UAV or a barrage balloon, so that an entire village or city could be observed. The system streamed all the video back, so that "virtual cameras" could be constructed from stitching together from frames of separate cameras. The only problem was that the cameras didn't line up perfectly, leaving black triangles in places. This fixes that problem.

Re:Why even stitch? (1)

ryzvonusef (1151717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398717)

Because a stitch in time saves nine?

*ducks*

HDDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391331)

Looks like I'm going to have to buy a lot more 2TB external hard drives. Does anyone know of ones that run off batteries?

At last, my dream of a panoramic... (0)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391335)

.....Roseanne Barr beaver shot at an exquisite level of detail is technically possible!

Re:At last, my dream of a panoramic... (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391655)

.....Roseanne Barr beaver shot at an exquisite level of detail is technically possible!

Just because a thing is possible doesn't mean it should be done. Also, eeeeeeeeeeewww.....

Re:At last, my dream of a panoramic... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391773)

.....Roseanne Barr beaver shot at an exquisite level of detail is technically possible!

According to Larry Sanger [slashdot.org] , Wikipedia already has that image.

Re:At last, my dream of a panoramic... (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391819)

There are some things money can't (or shouldn't, or should be illegal, or should get your house firebombed for suggesting) buy. For everything else, there's couchslug.

Re:At last, my dream of a panoramic... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391873)

.....Roseanne Barr beaver shot at an exquisite level of detail is technically possible!

According to Larry Sanger [slashdot.org] , Wikipedia already has that image.

Meter-cube camera bricks (2)

mpeskett (1221084) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391339)

Coming soon to Minecraft?

Great... (4, Funny)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391347)

Just when I thought I had plenty of space for my HD porn.

Excellent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391365)

Lets enhance that! [youtube.com]

Re:Excellent (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391461)

There! That's the one that did it! I'd recognize that pixel anywhere!

Only 3 frames per minute? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391373)

Can't they just stack a shitload of gpus and parallelize the stitching? Where's the bottleneck?

Re:Only 3 frames per minute? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40392111)

Probably. But division of labour suggests that's a task best left for somebody who is an expert on GPUs.

Re:Only 3 frames per minute? (4, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393639)

RTA, they're working on a 10 hz version now. Although I think "stitching" is a bit misleading, since it normally implies compute-intensive pattern matching to register the images over each other. In this case it seems like you'd only do that once, since the lenses are fixed, and then just re-use the same mapping.

Anyways, that works out to about 18 MB per sensor per frame, times 100 (sensors) times 10 (hz) so 18 GB / s. So I think they'll need hardware video compression as well to do much with it. Otherwise you're filling a 4TB hard drive in a little over 3 minutes.

Re:Only 3 frames per minute? (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393687)

PS, obviously a hard drive cannot write that fast. Assuming 60 MB/s minimum sustained write speed [macperformanceguide.com] , you'd need to stripe across 300 drives to push 18 GB/s :)

Re:Only 3 frames per minute? (2)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394975)

Just to point out your errors: Your own link shows the deskstar having a 85MB/s minimum sustained write speed, and if you were to design a system that a minimum speed was required, you could quite easilyuse 2 drives, with one writing from inner track to outer, and the other from outer track to inner in a RAID-0, and as your graph shows, it would sustain 400MB/s between the two. You could also leave the inner tracks unused. Or use a faster drive that spins at 15k RPM. You still aren't near the speed you would need to write uncompressed images, but at least the numbers are realistic.

The obvious choice, use a SSD. My personal SSD (OCZ Revo 3 x2) can sustain 1.4GB write speeds without breaking a sweat. Save the images using standard jpg compression, and it should be extremely easy to do.

Re:Only 3 frames per minute? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401983)

Balancing writes to inner and outer tracks does seem like a clever idea - I wonder if somebody does it. But it would not be trivial to do correctly. RAID0 continuously writes an equal number of blocks to each drive, so you get twice the speed of the slower drive, so it would be as if you were writing to the slow inner sectors all the time if you did it with RAID0.

Also, the throughput writing files to a filesystem is somewhat slower than writing blocks to a disk. There is some bookkeeping overhead, such as updating inodes, that causes seeks to occur. Different filesystems will be somewhat faster or slower even on the same hardware.

SSD is certainly a good choice for speed given unlimited budget, but a 250 GB drive would only hold about 12 seconds of uncompressed video from this thing.

So, yes, I agree realtime compression must come into play. I guess that was my main point in the first place. You aren't going to find off-the-shelf hardware codecs to handle this resolution, so I guess that's the type of work they have cut out for them.

Re:Only 3 frames per minute? (2)

Alastor187 (593341) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393715)

Can't they just stack a shitload of gpus and parallelize the stitching? Where's the bottleneck?

Well considering 3 frames is about 3 GB of data, I would guess it takes that long to write the data to a harddisk. Accordingly, to the article they are still working on filtering out the data they do/don't want.

I've got a gigapixel camera... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391383)

Busch Pressman Model D with a Nikkor lens, provia 100f, and a 4800ppi scanner. Works like a charm. The 6GB TIFF files are a bit unweildy though.

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391471)

Also I can substitute Delta 100 Prefessional and spot meter for the shadows if I wnat to make extra sure to get every area of the scene exposedwith detail.

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (1)

graphius (907855) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391807)

so you have a very detailed image of film grain?

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391989)

not really, he's describing a medium-to-large format camera. even 35mm scans fairly well up to 1GP, with the right stock.

but really, you'd want something like the Hulchers. they take 70mm roll film and burn through an amount best measured in feet per second, each image between roughly 6x9 and 6x17 cm. of course, that's pretty much what they flew in the U-2 and friends: it's not the camera, it's the platform -- and every pound carried takes away from flight time.

this is all about reproducing that level of detail in an immediately usable format in a digital era.

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393027)

the very best 35mm is still below 1GP. look at the MTFs. just because the grains are smaller, doesn't mean the dye clouds left behind after processing are, or that the light hasn't diffracted to all hell on its perilous journey through the film.

the sharpest stocks are the thinnest, and thus have bugger-all dynamic range.

the ones with the best dynamic range tend to be the fastest stocks, which are grainy and not too sharp.

digital has beaten film for quite a while now. it's just a matter of making it work as well and people learning how to shoot properly with it.

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394493)

Actually with t-grain films (Like Delta 100), sharpness and good dynamic range are available in the same stock.. Digital has beaten 35mm consumer film, equalled 35mm or 645 pro film (at a higher price), and still does not come close to large format. It is however superior in convenience and productivity and delivers good enough results for a fraction of the effort, for most needs.

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393203)

Actually, Busch Pressman model D is a 4"x5" camera... which is 10 x 13 cm.

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40392991)

you'd be hard pressed to have as deep a field as this camera though.

or get as good a dynamic range on such a high contrast stock.

or have as good MTF characteristics (3-layer film is actually piss-poor at this, as much as i love the look of it).

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (2)

toadlife (301863) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393585)

The GPs post and your reply are reminiscent of every vinyl vs CD debate/flame war I've ever seen.

In ten years, when we all have gigapixel cameras in our phones, are we going to have film devotees going on about how uniform pixels cannot possibly convey an image in the same way that film grains can?

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40393925)

Did you miss where we already have this?

First, we don't need a GPx in phones for this to come up -- phones are much more the equivalent of a 110 camera (cheap crap everyone carries everywhere, fits in a shirt-pocket) than a full-frame 135 camera (serious consumer on up to professional, needs its own strap or bag). 35mm film, in the real world, is no more than 20-30 MPx equivalent (more like 10 -- sophomoric arguments will suggest up to 100MPx, but if you see any analysis that doesn't address MTF (maths-light treatment) [normankoren.com] , the author is either ignorant or deceptive) ... and 110, being essentially one quarter the area, is no more than 6-7 MPx equivalent. We're already there.

Second, even for things that are just going to a 2MPx TV broadcast and 2MPx blu-ray, the film-fuckers say you need to capture it on film first, then digitize & downsample it, instead of capturing it at 4k with a modern video camera and downsampling, else it looks "uncinematic" (i.e. too real).

Re:I've got a gigapixel camera... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394115)

Note that in this case, GP's not being an idiot like most vinyl folks.

He didn't say his gigapixel camera was better, merely that he already has one.

He's using a scanner, not making photoprints, and from that I'd wager he's using proper sharpening algorithms. (I know you've seen lots of crappy, ringing, oversharpened crap. You need to do some math, or get someone to do it for you, but the correct amount of sharpening is very legitimate, and the only way to improve MTF, kicking up the contrast for clearly-resolved detail at the expense of barely-resolved detail.)

In ten years? (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394883)

They've already been doing that for years. So far, they have been proven right. Maybe in ten years the price of top of the range sensors has dropped sufficiently for the outcome to be favorable for the sensor camp. Right now, you need prohibitively expensive sensors and large format cameras to come up with a picture that is better in image detail, color trueness and resolution than you can get with the same quality mechanics/optics and a film at a smaller size than the sensor you're competing with. Until they find affordable materials that give good color and detail with a lot less photons hitting them than current sensor technology, film wins in quality.

That being said, it doesn't take a very high quality sensor to make a good picture and if you're a crappy photographer, you can buy all the equipment in the world but your pictures will not be pretty.

Re:In ten years? (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395531)

With digital, you can take a hundred pictures for the cost of the charge in a set of batteries. To do the same with 35mm, you'll need roughly three rolls, plus processing, and you have to change film, are stuck with the type and speed of film in use, and can't see your results until they come back from the lab. Thus, learning to take good pictures with a digital camera is far cheaper and faster than learning to do it with film. Also, very few people will ever see your film directly. Either it must be printed or duplicated (with the ensuing generation loss), or it must be scanned in some way. At that point, you lose much of the benefit of shooting film in the first place -- particularly if you compare to shooting the same image at two different exposure levels for HDR rendering in the digital realm.

This is not to say digital has caught film on all fronts -- it clearly hasn't. But for most people in most applications, the advantages of digital (cost and convenience) seriously outweigh the drawbacks.

Blink (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391439)

Blink and you've still got a few seconds before you miss it.

Big Brother upgrade (2)

J-1000 (869558) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391543)

I know this is inevitable and a nifty advancement, but it creeps me out. It's bad enough to have low-resolution cameras that can point in your general direction and maybe zoom in if they want to be extra nosy; now they'll have ultra high-resolution cameras with a 120 degree field of view that can identify you two blocks away.

Re:Big Brother upgrade (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391759)

I know this is inevitable and a nifty advancement, but it creeps me out. It's bad enough to have low-resolution cameras that can point in your general direction and maybe zoom in if they want to be extra nosy; now they'll have ultra high-resolution cameras with a 120 degree field of view that can identify you two blocks away.

They already have cameras that can identify which brand of cigarette you're smoking from 80 miles away. Look up sometime. The problem isn't that the government has this technology, the problem is what they do with it.

Re:Big Brother upgrade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391953)

Care to back that one up? A Google search for "camera 80 miles cigarette" returns this post as the top link.

Re:Big Brother upgrade (1)

dacut (243842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40392141)

This made me curious, so I did a bit of digging (a few minutes on Google) and turned up this article about the keyhole satellites [howstuffworks.com] , which supposedly (no citations given) have a resolution of 5-6 inches from a 200 mile orbit. Assuming they could be brought down to 80 miles and everything scales (which is a crazy assumption, but this is all speculation and guesswork, anyway), that would be a resolution of 2-2.5 inches.

Enough to identify the writing on a cigarette? No. But one could probably rule out certain brands based on color, size, shape, etc., at that point. Without better data (which, I'm guessing, we're unlikely to come by for obvious reasons), I'd call this plausible.

Re:Big Brother upgrade (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393101)

our manhood is safe, then? :)

Re:Big Brother upgrade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40393303)

First, those satellites have a mirror several meters in diameter -- they could certainly be fit in aircraft, but not in the camera bay of any reconnaissance aircraft I know. Second, a cigarette is roughly 10mm x 100mm; while not technically impossible, even the simplest case of determining a single solid color from a 50mm resolution, highly oversampled image requires elaborate tricks that just aren't feasible in the field. GGP's claim is just not plausible at all.

Re:Big Brother upgrade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40393409)

Sorry, I should have made the bit about aircraft a parenthetical -- clearly you're discussing moving them as whole satellites to a lower orbit, but that still requires a direct overhead pass to actually be 80 miles away, and going much lower is impossible; I just wanted to address the "obvious" solution to getting decent 80 mi pictures.

Re:Big Brother upgrade (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395723)

That'd be a good enough resolution to work out the color(s) of the box you took the cigarette out of

Re:Big Brother upgrade (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391787)

I can *already* identify you from two blocks away with a prosumer grade camera and a crap kit lens.

I just realized my mistake earlier when reading. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391833)

When I read how we were only really up to 40Mpixel in consumer tech.
When I read the 50, I assumed "eh, that doesn't seem like a big jump"
Now I read it again, 50 GIGAPixels. Good GOD, that is massive.

I'll take 0.005 of them! (if even that!)

Woot! At last . . . (3, Funny)

dogsbreath (730413) | more than 2 years ago | (#40392029)

a camera that truly matches the detail zooming capability of webcams on NCIS, CSI whatever and so on.

Re:Woot! At last . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40395633)

as long as they don't trounce all over the Constitution like the tv shows do....

Why shared lens (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#40392095)

Instead of camera array? The latter is more flexible in terms of being able to have a controlled tradeoff between resolution and other parameters as needed, such as extended depth of field, capturing depth information, extended dynamic range, and others related to lightfield photography and computational photography.

Re:Why shared lens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397559)

Cost. The size of the objective (aperture) determines resolution. Using micro cameras means they can share the objective, so you only need 1. The micro cameras use cheap optics for local correction. An array would require expensive optics for each camera.

Translation. (1, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#40392207)

Each microcamera runs autofocus and exposure algorithms independently

Translation: we just duct-taped together a bunch of standard camera modules, and did not bother figuring out how they work.

1000? (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#40392247)

The top of the article says it's equivalent to 1000 cameras, but we've had 10MP cameras for close to a decade now. Even the article itself (farther down) says that it uses 98 (a hell of a lot more than 1000) 14MP camera sensors.

Re:1000? (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394901)

Your math, flawed it is.

Also, it's not the megapixels that count, but the field of view and the details captured. Most of that is in the lens and the combining of the sensors.

Re:1000? (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#40409127)

Your math, flawed it is.

Care to point out the flaw?

Also, it's not the megapixels that count, but the field of view and the details captured. Most of that is in the lens and the combining of the sensors.

Why is it the "field of view" that counts? Your required field of view is entirely dependent on A) The size of your target and B) The distance you are from your target.

A "core" issue. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40392465)

So basically this is the optical version of throwing "cores" at the problem?

CSI wasn't fiction, it was sci-fi (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395303)

Zoom in. Enhance. Zoom in. Enhance. Zoom in, enhance.
Gotcha!

And for some reason they'll want a print for good measure; print out !

Confused! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40400785)

How can all the 96 micro sensors share the common spherical lens, and still have independent autofocus independently?

Lytro? (1)

TheLoneGundam (615596) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401769)

Isn't this the Lytro camera [lytro.com] concept?

AUTO-TRACKING CITY WIDE!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40411513)

DHS AUTO-TRACKING OF US CIVILIANS TO BE CITY WIDE

Watch ---

Wide Area Airborn Surveillance: Opportunities and Challenges - Gerard Medioni

on youtube. What about showing the auto-tracking software used to track all moving
objects across the entire frame or the video of automatic object
recognition tracking every car on the freeway, or perhaps all this is
why all the license plates are blurred and there are no aerial
perspectives? DHS appears to be attempting to integrate WASS (wide area
surveillance system) and Persistics (tracking software) with systems
like "Tentacle" to coordinate hand-off of tracked individuals from WASS
(exteriors) to tracking individuals inside buildings (interiors),
thereby circumventing line-of-sight limitations of UAVs in civilian
domestic airspace. Domestic WASS footage to be processed in Bluffdale,
Utah at NSA data processing center. This is ARGUS!

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