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Researchers Developing Single-Pixel Camera

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the needs-a-very-small-monitor-to-view dept.

Hardware 274

Assassin bug writes "According to the BBC, researchers in the US are developing a single-pixel camera to capture high-quality images without the 'expense' of traditional digital photography. The idea behind such a device is that traditional digital photography is wasteful. Most of the information taken in by the camera is thrown away in the compression process. From the article: 'The digital micromirror device, as it is known, consists of a million or more tiny mirrors each the size of a bacterium. "From that mirror array, we then focus the light through a second lens on to one single photo-detector - a single pixel." As the light passes through the device, the millions of tiny mirrors are turned on and off at random in rapid succession. Complex mathematics then interprets the signals assembling a high resolution image from the thousands of sequential single-pixel snapshots. '"

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Yes, it's a dupe. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671236)

A Single Pixel Camera []
Posted by CowboyNeal on 10-20-06 12:44 AM
from the high-tech-pointilism dept.

From the FAQ:

Sometimes I see duplicate stories on Slashdot. What's up with that?

These are just mistakes on the part of the staff. They happen. We have posted over ten thousand stories in our history. The occasional duplicate is inevitable.

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So if you really want to complain about it, consider contributing a Slashcode [] patch to fix it.

Re:Yes, it's a dupe. (1)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671624)

I knew I saw this a couple of days ago on BBC. I was going to post something to the effect of "a little late on the draw there aren't we", then, I saw this is dupe. I must have missed the first post.

HDR! (3, Interesting)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671920)

What is cool about this is that it could allow HDR( e_imaging) in the camera itself.

While you eye can see many different luminosities of light, a camera has limited contrast. Since it is taking not a single picture, but millions of them in an instant - it could also adjust contrast dynamically.

That would be cool.

Reverse DLP? (1)

TranscendentalAnarch (1005937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671268)

So this is kind of like a reverse DLP?

Re:Reverse DLP? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671366)

Yep- and just as crappy as the original DLPs. DLPs work because they have *very* high processing rates- unless the subject of the picture you're taking is perfectly still, I don't see this as being a big advance in digital photography.

Re:Reverse DLP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671658)

I'd like to know how having a million "tiny mirrors" is less wasteful than having a million pixels.

Re:Reverse DLP? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671738)

I'd like to know how having a million "tiny mirrors" is less wasteful than having a million pixels.

THAT depends on the manufacturing process- it's entirely possible that the material needed to create the mirrors is cheaper than the material needed to make a pixel sensor. However, having said that- you know how bad digital cameras are now at storing the picture once you snap the button, just based on flash memory time to store? Think a million times worse, as each pixel is scanned individually, then reassembled to store on the flash card.

Re:Reverse DLP? (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672016)

basically yes. the example images are crap, they're a long way before they can produce something that'll compete with a 50$ digicam!

I would like to refer /. crowd to the fact that telescopes use mirrors and not lenses for good reasons, so perhaps a DLP mirror array with one sensor could make sense under certain circumstances... this might be an advantage is IF the image sensor had very peculiar characteristics that were very hard to reproduce in a large 2D array like a CCD or MOS sensor. Off the top of my head, that might be a very wide spectrum sensor (infrared to ultraviolet) (rather than an RGB detector) say.

Pointalism... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671296)

If the one-pixel camera behaves like a traditional digital camera, I will need to take 100 pixels to get 20 decent pixels that I can use.

Re:Pointalism... (1)

alisson (1040324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672250)

Film cameras are like that, too. It's really not the cameras fault, it's just tough to get a really good shot.

Not just for cameras (5, Funny)

k4_pacific (736911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671306)

In related news, a major roofing manufacturer has announced the "single shingle" roof. It consists of a small plate that is quickly moved about above a building during a rainstorm to block each individual raindrop. This eliminates the "complexity" of asphalt shingles.

Re:Not just for cameras (4, Insightful)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671804)

That would work... if shingles were really expensive and the mechanism to move the one shingle around at the necessary speed were comparatively cheap. Oh... and you knew that you never needed to block raindrops in two places at the same time.

There are tons of ideas that work great in computerized systems that sound *really stupid* when you think of doing something that seems similar but uses other materials / technology. I mean - consider the mechanism of an ink jet printer from the perspective of a portrait artist who works with pencils...

Re:Not just for cameras (1)

blugu64 (633729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671958)

"There are tons of ideas that work great in computerized systems that sound *really stupid* when you think of doing something that seems similar but uses other materials / technology. I mean - consider the mechanism of an ink jet printer from the perspective of a portrait artist who works with pencils..."

Wasn't there a painted around the turn of the century that did something similar though? I can't remember the name of the artist sadly.

Re:Not just for cameras (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671942)

Well, I was thinking, along the same lines, that this is semantics. The thousands of tiny mirrors redirecting the light are, in effect, the pixels for this camera, and it just reads them individually, aggregates them, and does some "complex" math transforms. People think of the "pixels" as the resolution, and the resolution is limited to what one mirror can put through the camera's "one pixel".

Murphy's Law (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671308)

Bet it'd suck to have a bad pixel with that camera, huh? :-)

Finally! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671310)

Now we can get pr0n at the level of quality in Duke Nukem! One fleshy-pink-colored pixel is enough to get most me off...

Re:Finally! (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671746)

Dude... aliens in disguise. You could even see the green tentacles sticking out.

1MP? (5, Funny)

UPZ (947916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671312)

Next thing you know, they'll be inventing a single core processor.

Re:1MP? (1)

Speed Pour (1051122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672008)

More like a 3000 core processor clocked at 1 mhz

Damnit, I can SMP like nobody's business!!!! just really slowly :(

Re:1MP? (2, Funny)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672048)

no, a beowulf cluster of 1 bit processor core CPUs.

RAW format anyone? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671326)

> Most of the information taken in by the camera is thrown away in the compression process.

Doesn't the RAW format take care of this?

Re:RAW format anyone? (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671906)

Yes. The article is, as usual, bullshit.

Re:RAW format anyone? (3, Interesting)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671996)

The problem is not getting at that extra information, like you say, we can already do that with RAW. the problem is that a lot of resources (such as CCD area) go into capturing this extra information which is then simply discarded. By taking a random sampling of pixels, one gets exactly as much information is needed to construct the compressed version of the image without waste. plus, with only a single CCD, you can make it incredibly sensitive, to the point where it can count single photons. Heck, you could probably have some fun with wavelengths. different wavelengths get diffracted slightly differently, if you could take advantage of that to redirect photons of different wavelengths at the sensor. you could have a camera that takes _full spectrum_ pictures. not just at the single pretty but not very informative red green and blue lines. (tetrachromats rejoice!). Full spectrum sampling in a small package would be really cool, I mean, that is tricorder technology. This is very neat research.

Dupe (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671332)

I remember reading this here a few months ago.

Replacement policy? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671334)

I'd find out what the dead pixel return policy is before buying one of these.

complex mathematics? (3, Informative)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671338)

Surely, you mean "complicated". Mathematics already has a use for the word "complex".

Re:complex mathematics? (5, Funny)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671594)

It's a little clue for those "in the know" that the described benefits are entirely imaginary.

Re:complex mathematics? (1)

rherbert (565206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671790)

Perhaps they're implying that the mirrors move in Hilbert space, which would be quite an accomplishment.

Re:complex mathematics? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671918)

And you and maybe three other people understand this. For the rest of us, "complex" is a synonym for "complicated", and will continue to be used as such.

Throwing away data? (3, Interesting)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671342)

Well, there's no reason a digital camera *has* to throw away any data at all. It's likely the case that all digital cameras do perform on-the-fly JPEG compression, but it's not a limitation of the hardware, so why bother reinventing the wheel if you really care about losing data that much? Just make a digital camera that saves pictures as some lossless format.

And at any rate, how are the single-pixel cameras throwing away any *less* data than their plain digicam counterparts? Doesn't it all just depend on the encryption method used?

Re:Throwing away data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671608)

When researchers base an attack on how a competing method works, it's usually because they lose if they make a direct comparison of the results.

Scanning back? (2, Interesting)

MoxFulder (159829) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671896)

I think this design is sort of like an ultra-fast scanning back [] . A scanning back is a high-end type of digital camera sensor where the sensor has only a very small resolution, but it physically moves and takes a frame at each step. The many resulting frames are then interpolated together appropriately. This can produce EXTREMELY high-resolution images (we're talking 100s of megapixels) but it is sloooow (minutes or hours per exposure). Good for art reproductions and such.

As I understand it, this camera would basically be like a very fast scanning back, because instead of physically moving the sensor for each new frame, the image is changed using extremely high-speed mirrors.

Can anyone who knows more about photographic technology comment on this?

Need help making sense of this... (1)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671360)

FTA: Compressive Sensing is an emerging field based on the revelation that a small group of non-adaptive linear projections of a compressible signal contains enough information for reconstruction and processing. We have developed algorithms and hardware to support a new theory of Compressive Imaging. Our approach is based on a new digital image/video camera that directly acquires random projections of the signal without first collecting the pixels/voxels. Our camera architecture employs a digital micromirror array to perform optical calculations of linear projections of an image onto pseudorandom binary patterns. Its hallmarks include the ability to obtain an image with a single detection element while measuring the image/video fewer times than the number of pixels --- this can significantly reduce the computation required for video acquisition/encoding. Because our system relies on a single photon detector, it can also be adapted to image at wavelengths that are currently impossible with conventional CCD and CMOS imagers.

Is this like interpolation? Stacking? Averaging? Can't figure out WTF they're talking about, but it sounds like you have a single pixel camera, but that it must acquire many readings (sequentially). The number of readings required will still be less than the final pixel could your image will end up at. Hmm... seems like it would have to make up some of the information that it did not actually acquire?

Re:Need help making sense of this... (1)

kimgkimg (957949) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671566)

This could definitely increase the light sensitivity of a camera since you're not tied to trying to cram millions of photosites into a given chip area. Does anyone remember the linear scanning photography that people use to hack up by mating a linear scanning mechanism from a flatbed/handheld scanner onto the film plane of a camera? Similar idea except they are using an array of mirrors instead of the linear motion of a CCD array. I wonder what the differential cost of mirrorchip + one-pixel sensor vs. multi-megapixel CCD chip is going to be.

Re:Need help making sense of this... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671730)

They have a single sensor and mega-mirrors which all flutter about.
At any one point in time, only a minimal number of mirrors will actually send a reflection onto the sensor.

they use a mathematical algorithm to process these and reconstruct the multi mega pixel image back from the positions on the multi mega mirror array.

Its another case of smoke and mirrors.

Re:Need help making sense of this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671748)

They use multiple measurements. But the key is, that you don't need to reflect light from a single mirror to the sensor, but can reflect from multple at the same time, in effect observing the sum of light reflected from all mirrors.
The following key idea is that they use a new mathematical method that states that under some circumstances you can reconstruct a compressed signal from observing inner-products of the (uncompresed) singal and random signals.

Basicall, if you can compress your image (using a specific kind of compression, i.e., non-linear approximation), of M pixels to N pixels (N M), then you can in theory reconstruct your compressed signal from cN observations (with c some constant).

Re:Need help making sense of this... (1)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671904)

It's more like linear algebra... you have a series of equations based on the random-ish mirror patterns, so for a simple 2x2 grid of pixels (mirrors):

1*x0y0 + 0*x1y0 + 1*x0y1 + 0*x1y1 = sample1
1*x0y0 + 1*x1y0 + 0*x0y1 + 1*x1y1 = sample2
0*x0y0 + 1*x1y0 + 0*x0y1 + 0*x1y1 = sample3 ...

Then you basically solve it for the pixels. So think interpolating the entire image at once as a single value.

We'll See...Betamax anyone? (3, Funny)

MuChild (656741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671364)

1) Create a million bacteria-sized mirrors. 2) ???? 3) Profit!

Single pixel reflector telescope (2, Insightful)

heroine (1220) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671390)

Always thought the single pixel idea would be more practical in a reflector telescope. Such a telescope could have a much higher dynamic range than any other telescope due to the extra money available for the pixel. The telescope would use the Earth's rotation to scan one axis and servos to scan the other axis.

Re:Single pixel reflector telescope (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671688)

That would require *extremely long* exposures. You can't really up the sensitivity of the detector no matter how much money you throw at it. Good CCDs are already at the level of being able to record single photons, and it still takes hours or even days for some exposures. So what's a several hour exposure multiplied by a million pixels? Ouch is what it is.

Re:Single pixel reflector telescope (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672010)

You can't really up the sensitivity of the detector, but you can change what you do with the signal it sends once you get it.

With current pixels densities (say about 16MP on a full frame 35mm sensor) the signal can be boosted to give the ISO equivalent of 3200 speed film before the noise becomes objectionable. Noise is a problem in part because signals from adjacent pixels affect one another, which is magnified when the signal is boosted to ISO 3200.

I would suppose that a single pixel would be less prone to noise when boosted.

Hot or stuck pixel? (4, Funny)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671394)

Oh great, now I'll end up with a camera with a stuck or hot pixel and be totally screwed. Thanks, progress.

Re:Hot or stuck pixel? (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671602)

Well, you could always use the dark frame subtraction method to fix the problem.

Re:Hot or stuck pixel? (2, Insightful)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671992)

Actually, I don't think you could. If you had a mirror that got stuck into the 'on' position (i.e. it's pointing at the single sensor), it would partially blind the sensor whenever any other mirror was also pointing at the sensor. If that one mirror happened to be seeing pink, the entire photo would have a pinkish hue. If it happened to be seeing white, the picture would be washed out. If it happened to be seeing pitch black, well, then you're in business.

It's the Mirrors (1)

Ponga (934481) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671404)

That cute little girl has been saying it all along!

Ugh, I need to stop watching so much TV...

it's called "Compressed Sensing" (3, Interesting)

toby (759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671416)

And this story hit the UK Guardian on 9 Nov 2006. [] (via CS maven my slice of pizza [] .)

I used it for my holiday snaps (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671422)

This is me skydiving

This is me swimming with dolphins

This is me at the grand canyon

Re:I used it for my holiday snaps (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671580)

This is me having sex with my wife (NSFW)


Re:I used it for my holiday snaps (5, Funny)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671714)

Dude, you should link stuff like that and no post directly.. I really didn't want to see your ugly whale of a wife..

mod parent down! (5, Funny)

Achoi77 (669484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672080)

freakin goatse trolls!

Re:I used it for my holiday snaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671716)

Your nipple's showing.

I have the video camera version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671792)

This is a short video clip from my wedding:


Sorry for the shakiness of the video. (And I still can't believe what an ass my brother in law was that day!)

Re:I used it for my holiday snaps (3, Funny)

Asgerix (1035824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671796)

That's the good thing about dupe posts; you get to improve on your jokes! &cid=16513113 []

Re:I used it for my holiday snaps (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17672022)

That's the good thing about dupe posts; you get to improve on your jokes! &cid=16513113

1) A dupe article
2) A dupe post
3) What's next? A dupe profit?

Re:I used it for my holiday snaps (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671842)

This would be great for pictures of Madonna [] .

Re:I used it for my holiday snaps (1)

Krommenaas (726204) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672270)

bah, black&white photography is so arty-farty.

Single-pixel DLP-type camera is cool because... (2, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671426)

...with only a single CCD pixel, they can spend all their resources making it exquisitely sensitive, so as to outperform normal array CCDs.

Of course, they'd have to do that anyway, because to get a decent shutter speed they're already going to have to 'scan' the viewed area extremely quickly. It's the old tradeoff of serial versus parallel processing.

Re:Single-pixel DLP-type camera is cool because... (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671550)

I'm gonna sit and wait until they perfect this, and just before it gets popular (because its so cheap) I'm going to patent the 2 pixel camera with twice the resolution for only a tiny higher cost, and beat them at their own game!


Re:Single-pixel DLP-type camera is cool because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17672240)

Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of single-pixel ...... oh, wait......

Ah, more moving parts. THAT's helpful. (4, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671434)

Is it just me, or does the concept seem inherently more complex and fragile than a multi-pixel sensor with light cast on it?

And how can this possibly deal with the equivalent of a range of shutter speeds in front of a standard sensor? Perhaps it's a matter of how many times the pixel is exposed to the same part of the lens' projection in repeated scans... but that just seems clunky, and that much harder/slower to re-assemble into a stored image.

And it doesn't stop the megapixel chest thumping - it just starts up megamirror arguments, instead.

Re:Ah, more moving parts. THAT's helpful. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671598)

It's sure good that a bunch of talented researchers have someone like you who knows nothing of their work to fling turds from the peanut gallery.

Re:Ah, more moving parts. THAT's helpful. (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671862)

Stating the researchers are talented is just as much an assumption as suggesting the GP is from the peanut gallery. Maybe they deserve turds.

Re:Ah, more moving parts. THAT's helpful. (3, Informative)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671632)

Micromirrors are actually very reliable and even exceed the lifetime of a typical LED now, of hundreds of thousands of hours of constant flexing. It turns out that nano-scale objects have different properties. A piece of metal on the nanoscale is likely to be a single crystal and that usually eliminates the fatigue issue. I think this has more uses in the sciences though.

Re:Ah, more moving parts. THAT's helpful. (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671774)

It still sounds to me like a camera with literally millions of moving parts though. Also, the sheer physics of getting the photons to the sensor (especially in low light conditions) when each pixel only has the most absolutely tiny slice of time to collect light seems rather difficult to surmount. In low light conditions it's easy to see where this could amount to only a handful of photons per pixel. It's hard to see how you wouldn't get lots of noise in low light conditions just due to the magnified effects of random variation in the number of photons hitting a lens per second.

I have to say it (3, Funny)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671440)

oops, crash sevem million years bad luck !?!

Urgh! (2, Funny)

HerrEkberg (971000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671444)

Look how many MegaMirrors my new camera has!

Excuse me (2, Interesting)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671460)

Please don't move until I sequentially activate a few hundred thousand micromirrors!

'nuff said.

Dupe (2, Informative)

rumith (983060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671468)

From the mysterious past: 39.shtml [] .

Re:Dupe (4, Funny)

orson_of_fort_worth (871181) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671618)

Shh. We can score some karma by copying the +5 posts from the original story.

Your post is a dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671890)

From the more recent mysterious past: 2&cid=17671236 []

-1 Redundant in 3... 2... 1...

Re:Your post is a dupe (1)

rumith (983060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672004)

Believe it or not, the post stating that wasn't there when I hit the reply button.

Re:Your post is a dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17672118)

Believe it or not

First Post: 01-18-07 04:44 PM
Your Post: 01-18-07 04:54 PM
Difference: 10 minutes

You're right, I don't believe you.

Contradicts itself. (4, Insightful)

Xoltri (1052470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671502)

The article says that this new camera will have do do "Complex mathematics to interpret the signals" but at the same time will "do away with the need to process and compress each image". So which is it? I just don't see how this will save anything if you have 1 pixel doing something 5 million times or 5 million pixels doing something one time.

pixels for mirrors? (1)

jackelfish (831732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671526)

So essentially, it seems that we go from an array of pixels on the photodetector in the camera, from which the data being collected is filtered and redundant information is deleted during compression into a jpeg. Now a new "less wasteful" method uses an array of tiny mirrors that must turn on and off and then focus the reflected light efficiently onto a single photodetector that then just filters the information using some complex maths? I am not quite sure how this is better, or is it just different?

best of both worlds (2, Interesting)

cpearson (809811) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671534)

Why could this idea be combined with the current technology. Millions of mirrors AND thousands if not millions of photo detectors would allow faster exposure times without as much waste as current CCD digital cameras.

Windows Vista Help Forum []

Re:best of both worlds (1)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671692)

Not everyone wants faster exposure times. Default faster exposure times would ruin many shots. Forget motion blur, water blur, etc... Everything would be a perfect freeze-frame. Of course, the consheepers would get razor sharp pictures of their sticky, chocolaty offspring.

Look at the picts (1)

Var1abl3 (1021413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671542)

I know it is still in dev but the picture quality they show as examples look like shit... I would never take a pict of my wife and baby with a camera that made them look like a image made out of bathroom tile..... no matter how much battery life it saved.
Also what would this do to a picture of something in motion. I could imagine taking a pict of a car driving by and get the front of the car and by the time the millions of mirrors switch and aim etc the car has passed and I only get a picture of what was behind the car... except for the front bumper or something. Keep working on it... but for now I will stay with my 8MegPix camera and charge the battery everynight.

If it were for these guys.... (1)

d0n quix0te (304783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671564)

We'd still be using a pin hole camera... lenses --wasteful, shutters-just extra parts, zoom -- why would you need it...


Re:If it were for these guys.... (1)

bozendoka (739643) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671708)

Focus? Luxury!

Compression (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671572)

Doh! so what if data is lost in compression? that's why you shoot in RAW format dumbass.

With a 4GB CF card and average RAW image size of about 20MB I don't see any need for JPEG if you have the time to work on the RAW files.

Re:Compression (1)

Bandman (86149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671736)

I'm torn about this.

There are some shots that I'd like to get that just arn't worth the post processing that raw entails, and they take away from the "good" shots I'm interested in. That being said, I agree with you, RAW is the way to go for any serious photography that doesn't involve film.

Forget about a solid state sensor for each pixel, (2, Interesting)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671574)

You can have a million little moving parts in your camera!

The microelectrical mechanical device fabrication techniques used to make the DLP scanning mirrors are taken from tech used to etch transistors. Instead of a circuit bring etched, a movable mirror os etched into slicon or other substrates. And you end up with a bunch of little tiny mirrors moving around on a portable device. Moving parts tend to wear out more rapidly than solid state parts, and are more easily broken. I'd be interested to see how durable this tech is. DLP doesn't have this issue because no one carried a DLP projector or TV around.

Seems like it would have one huge drawback (3, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671604)

Low light sensitivity. Digital cameras gain light sensitivity by acting as light buckets. Moreso for CMOS sensors than CCD, but the important thing is that all those sensor pixels are collecting light for their individual pixel simultaneously - in parallel. With a single pixel sensor, this light collection would have to happen in series to achieve the same light sensitivity. If your shutter speed in low light is 1/25 sec with a 5MP traditional digital camera, in order for a single-pixel camera to take the same picture it would need an exposure time of (1/25 sec/pixel)*(5M pixels)*(10% assumed algorithmic efficiency) = 20,000 sec = 5 hours 33 min 20 sec.

Of course since you're doing all this with mirrors, you could set up a megapixel array and have different mirrors shine at different pixels simultaneously (just like a DLP). But that seems to defeat the purpose of the whole rig.

Oh yay! (1)

malkir (1031750) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671696)

Sounds like an inexpensive and durable replacement!

All I can advise is that you (1)

UPZ (947916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671700)

avoid the operas...!

RAW mode (1)

dagamer34 (1012833) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671702)

Or more cameras could shoot pictures in RAW or RAW + JPEG mode. I don't want to spend $300 for a camera that doesn't throw away information when $100 can capture the same info anyway.

Excellent tool for espionage... (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671724)

I have sometimes thought of nano-sized cameras like this that, instead of having a million mirrors to allow a single pixel to take a full picture, instead, only took a pixel's worth of a picture. But each device is like a grain of sand. You could sprinkle the devices where someone is known to be passing through, or sprinkle them on the person, and thousands of these one-pixel devices, working in concert, could generate images.

It would be like "dusting" someone with micro-bugs.

Re:Excellent tool for espionage... (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672012)

Right, and in the future, where manufacturing even ordinary objects atom by atom is practical, the future society would have ubiquitous surveillance. EVERY object everywhere would generate ultrahigh res images of everything around it, and nano-scale processors embedded in the objects would analyze the images. Crime would be impossible : even committing a crime would be impossible, as an attempt to commit a major crime would automatically cause an intervention by the AIs watching over everything.

Random? (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671728)

Why don't they just scan over every mirror on the chip in a specific order? Then there would be less complicated mathematics required, right?

Millions of Mirrors * 7 years bad luck = ..uh oh (1)

JustASlashDotGuy (905444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671740)

'The digital micromirror device, as it is known, consists of a million or more tiny mirrors

Drop this device just one time and you've got bad luck for the rest of your life... or next
million lives if you believe in reincarnation.
I urge all Eisoptrophobia'ist to avoid this at all cost!

I have one... maybe (1)

dosle (794546) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671764)

I'm sure if I looked through my old gadgets box there's something nearing a 1 Pixel digital camera... it also takes 3.5" disks. $10,000 OBO

Space/Time tradeoff (1, Insightful)

phliar (87116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671802)

If you replace a million sensors with one sensor, for the same sort of exposure you'll need a million times the time. (Or, since the claim for the device is that you don't need to sample everything since you're compressing with JPEG, let's say half a million times.)

But we want the entire frame to be captured in "the same instant" (or you'll see strange artifacts from moving objects).

Let's say we want an exposure of about 1/100s. So, can these micro-mirrors switch at a 5x10^7/s rate (20 nanoseconds)? Since the mirror has to be stable for the interval, the switching time needs to be a fraction of that. So, can these bacterium-sized physical mirrors switch in 10ns?

Demo here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17671902)

Here's the image:


If you can't see anything more than a single gray dot, it's because your monitor doesn't support moving the image randomly and rapidly enough.

dumb dumb dumb (1)

cwm9 (167296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671950)

I can't see any application for which this is an advantage, not even astronomy. In astronomy I guess you could argue that you want a highly efficient detector because you need to harvest every photon you can... but a larger detector also means a larger dark current, so that seems to be going the opposite direction you need to be going.

For any other normal application this has got to be the stupidest thing I've read in a while.

This device will throw away >99% of the available light. So instead of shooting f8/125 portraits you'll be shooting f1.4/4 blur-blobs. Yeah, that's what every photographer wants.

The basis (2, Informative)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671986)

Here's some of the basic math behind the idea:

When you lossfully compress an image, you are literally throwing away data. If you compress a 1MB image down to 100 KB, which with JPG is still very good quality, you are mapping many, many, many slightly different but ultimately very similar source images all onto the same compressed image.

Consumer cameras "waste" time starting from a full lossless image, and compressing it with JPG; the waste comes from collecting all of this data that has no bearing on the final result. (Anything that stores the .RAW of the image isn't doing this compression, it's storing the entire data set.)

The idea of this system is that by mixing the pixels together in a certain way, we can collect less information in the first place. For what would be a 1MB picture in a standard camera, you'd start off by only collecting 100KB of information, and then computing the image from your sequential numbers.

Two problems leap to mind:
  • I find it very, very hard to believe that "random" is the optimal approach. I would have thought there would be something much better than that for the bases, but I could be wrong. (There almost certainly is something better than "random" but it may not be better enough to justify the computational expense.)
  • JPG bases were carefully designed to match the human visual perception system and make it difficult for us to perceive the compression artifacts. The compression bases in this situation will have to be optimized for information gathering, which won't be the same as the human eye, which will result in somewhat inferior pictures, bit for bit. If you know what you're looking for, you can see it in their sample pictures; it's going to take a lot more bits to make that mosaic effect "go away" that it will to make JPG artifacts "go away".
A clever PhD may be able to solve both problems in one swipe, by using a clever mirror progression that happens to map better to the JPG standard. (You can't get it perfect though because you can't predict in advance how many bits go to one JPG block, that's computed dynamically.)

It works, and it's a clever algorithm, but I would definitely still question its practical usefulness over a conventional imaging system. I think the current trend of compression is temporary; the megapixel race should start to slow down (who needs 100megapixel pictures of their baby?) and then as cameras and storage continue to advance, we'll start getting uncompressed or losslessly compressed images instead. I could see this technology winning the race to be the first to produce a single camera that matches the image capturing power of the human eye, though; by manipulating the incoming light you may better be able to manage widely varying light levels.

(Finally, bear in mind before posting criticisms of how impossible this all is that they appear to have actually built a device that does this, which trumps skepticism.)

cheaper? (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672134)

Are micro-mirror arrays truely cheaper to produce than a CCD or CMOS photo sensitive array?

fft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17672138)

theoretically it should work with one pixel, the light in the pinhole camera also passes in one point (theoreticaly). In this point all the information is stored in the frequency domain. But you don't need any mirrors just an really tiny sensor.

Pixel (1)

postmortem (906676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672144)

Sigle pixel on my laptop screen looks pretty small.. I'm not sure that I'll be able to enjoy my pr0n sessions as much with this camera.
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