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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday June 28 2017, @08:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the seeing-clearly dept.

Caltech has created a camera without a lens:

Traditional cameras—even those on the thinnest of cell phones—cannot be truly flat due to their optics: lenses that require a certain shape and size in order to function. At Caltech, engineers have developed a new camera design that replaces the lenses with an ultra-thin optical phased array (OPA). The OPA does computationally what lenses do using large pieces of glass: it manipulates incoming light to capture an image.

[...] "Here, like most other things in life, timing is everything. With our new system, you can selectively look in a desired direction and at a very small part of the picture in front of you at any given time, by controlling the timing with femto-second—quadrillionth of a second—precision," says Ali Hajimiri, Bren Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech, and the principal investigator of a paper describing the new camera. The paper was presented at the Optical Society of America's (OSA) Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) and published online by the OSA in the OSA Technical Digest in March 2017.

"We've created a single thin layer of integrated silicon photonics that emulates the lens and sensor of a digital camera, reducing the thickness and cost of digital cameras. It can mimic a regular lens, but can switch from a fish-eye to a telephoto lens instantaneously—with just a simple adjustment in the way the array receives light," Hajimiri says.

Does this have implications for astronomy?

"The applications are endless," says graduate student Behrooz Abiri (MS '12), coauthor of the OSA paper. "Even in today's smartphones, the camera is the component that limits how thin your phone can get. Once scaled up, this technology can make lenses and thick cameras obsolete. It may even have implications for astronomy by enabling ultra-light, ultra-thin enormous flat telescopes on the ground or in space."

Okay.

Paper: An 8x8 Heterodyne Lens-less OPA Camera


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by acid andy on Wednesday June 28 2017, @08:46PM (7 children)

    by acid andy (1683) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @08:46PM (#532629) Homepage Journal

    This is a clever technology and I can see the advantage on something like a space telescope but puh-lease who cares about phones getting any thinner? Don't tell me - I already know who cares about that, but I think it's idiotic. They're already making them so thin that they're uncomfortable to hold or can become damaged. It was like the fad for making phones smaller and smaller, then laughing at people with larger ones even though that gave a better display area. The next thing we know, everyone wants a fucking phablet!

    Still, I don't blame the researchers for suggesting applications of their technology that are likely to sell well.

    --
    Consumerism is poison.
    • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:00PM

      by RamiK (1813) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:00PM (#532638)

      Would you prefer the military applications route? Cause a red dot sight + scope combo will sell like hotcakes.

      --
      compiling...
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by bob_super on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:10PM (3 children)

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:10PM (#532646)

      > Everything's too thin. Give me some curves any day

      Be careful what you wish for [cdc.gov]. I have to run to the patent office to submit my "Phased Array Optical System for Flattering Selfies" patent.

      • (Score: 2) by Some call me Tim on Wednesday June 28 2017, @11:19PM (2 children)

        by Some call me Tim (5819) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @11:19PM (#532687)

        I've already submitted my patent for "Phased Array Optical System for Flattening People Trying to Take Flattering Selfies"
        ;-)

        --
        Questioning science is how you do science!
        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday June 28 2017, @11:24PM (1 child)

          by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @11:24PM (#532689)

          I've got prior art, courtesy of my "Anvil, 10-ton weight, Grand Piano, Bank Safe, Steamroller Delivery System for Flattening People Trying to Take Selfies".
          You wouldn't believe the over-broad clauses I got away with. They even cover "with a computer".

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday June 28 2017, @10:05PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday June 28 2017, @10:05PM (#532661) Journal

      If the relentless focus on slightly better smartphones results in something that could create a telescope with say, 1,000x better resolving capability, then so be it.

      The James Webb Space Telescope [wikipedia.org] has 2.7x the aperture of the Hubble Space Telescope and about 5.6x the collecting area. If these "flat" and light chip things can be used to create a bigger unfolding telescope, we could create something bigger than JWST on a smaller budget. On the ground, maybe they could be used to create a telescope with a 100 meter aperture instead of ~30m [wikipedia.org]. Heck, maybe it will become more feasible to send a giant unfolded football field of these chips into space than have it operating on the ground under the influence of Earth's gravity. And it seems easier than the "swarm of mirrors" [arstechnica.com] idea.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @06:51AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @06:51AM (#532850)

      ...It was like the fad for making phones smaller and smaller, then laughing at people with larger ones even though that gave a better display area.

      Err, how much 'display area' do you require to display a phone number and name?

      I had a v3688, a great wee phone which was apparently indestructible, it survived many a drop, survived tens of thousands of miles travelling in rucksacks, camera bags. etc (I'm one of those apparently weird people who switch off their phones on long journeys..the phone travelled in the bags).

      I needed a small phone at the time as I was travelling a lot and lugged a fair amount of equipment around with me, anything to cut down on size/weight of anything was welcome..only reason I still don't use it as a backup phone?, battery died and I couldn't be arsed getting a replacement as it was cheaper to buy a nokia for the same role of 'small dumb phone..'

      Long story short, there are use-cases for small phones, however, I'm not so sure there's one for credit card thin uber-sized smartphones..

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:27PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:27PM (#532651) Homepage Journal

    This is a patent I could file but in my infinite free time I'll never get around to it.

    You can use the same technique to make computer generated holograms.

    Back when I was a dope smoking hippie, I did some literature research at the library of the Naval Postgraduate School. All the officers wore civilian suits so they wouldn't have to salute each other all the time. Two of them happened upon me sitting at a table reading the Society for Photooptical Engineers journal. They didn't say anything, neither did I. I just looked up them then smiled.

    At least at the time, the unclassified part of the library was open to the public. Adjacent to it was the classified library where the officers had to show their IDs to the clerk that was sitting opposite a window, then the clerk would fetch your book.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Nuke on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:32PM

    by Nuke (3162) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:32PM (#532654)

    Even in today's smartphones, the camera is the component that limits how thin your phone can get

    Yes, phones need to be thinner. I won't stop shouting for thinner phones until they feel like razor blades.

    Caltech Replaces Lenses With Ultra-Thin Optical Phased Array

    Already? That was quick. So all their old phones an cameras are on eBay now.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:46PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:46PM (#532658)

    Not sure how this made it to the front page of SN, this is some very preliminary work which has not even achieved parity with other groups working on phase array techniques. It was not even the among the more interesting talks presented at CLEO 2017, of which there were hundreds. If you want something for the front page you should at least pick a result that is new and/or actually working. After they have figured out how to scale their scheme to reasonable numbers of pixels (which is quite nontrivial, when you consider anyone asking for a camera will laugh at you even if you give them 10x10 pixels as demonstrated here, even a 1000x1000 pixels is not enough to really be called a camera in this day and age. Then, even if they do figure out how to do the scaling (which people taking other approaches to this goal have already solved), they still need to make it work with polychromatic light (currently no one knows how to make that happen well).

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @10:53PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @10:53PM (#532679)

      The selection process is "does it sound cool" or "is this a partisan piece of garbage"?

      If your story matches one or more of those criteria it goes in the queue. End of story. Fact checking, let alone researching alternative journals / articles is so far beyond the max level of effort.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Bobs on Thursday June 29 2017, @03:19AM

      by Bobs (1462) on Thursday June 29 2017, @03:19AM (#532788)

      Would love to have you submit some of those. Sounds like good info.

      Thx

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @11:00PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @11:00PM (#532681)

    Is this star trek? Cause it sounds like star trek. I'll take one warp capable vessel please, along with coordinates to the nearest stable and friendly civilization.

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