A Small Camera Chip that could Change the World

Camera technology is a few hundred years old and has been talked about for a long time before it became real. Chalk and silver shavings on a rock at the right position aided a discoverer in seeing how light can be captured to make an image. Photography is about converting light into an image and we have all kinds of gadgets for doing this. Many of those devices use a lens to help concentrate light onto a light-sensitive surface.

Imagine a smooth surface like smooth clay. It is completely smooth. You gently tap your finger in the middle of it and suddenly a mark exists that matches the tip of your finger. That is photography except your finger is light rays and the clay is the photo sensor in electronic cameras. Light has a force. A gentle force. A lens can concentrate that force so that as it builds up, it leaves a greater impression mark. That impression is the picture, the result of light bouncing off things. Light at different speeds, quantity, and intensity is what we call color and brightness.

Some of our largest cameras, in outer space, are as large as a semi-truck. Professional photographers on Earth use cameras, currently of the SLR variety, when you add-on a fixed or zoom lens are about the length and width of a facial tissue box. Digital mobile phones and notebooks have cameras as well. What they all have in common is the lens and the sensor with or without a shutter.

Cameras can be found everywhere in first-world countries. People have them in their pockets to capture a memory. Businesses decorate buildings with them to create safety. Cars may have them for safer reversing actions. Doctors use them in some methods of diagnosis to create accurate maps of a patient to improve the success of medical procedures. Cameras are an indispensable tool in modern activity.

Cameras are also about to get more widespread. There will be cameras everywhere because the company, Rambus, has made a microchip sized camera that does the general things I mentioned about cameras but in a very small package. A camera the size and cost of a postage stamp means that you can put cameras in far more places than you every imagined. You will be able to see more of what is going on, learn more about the environment, make a much broader study of places, people, and things.

The theme of the near future seems to be miniaturization meets a global web of information. You will not only be able to do better gesture control with miniaturized technology such as this camera. You will also be able to push computer technology beyond mobile screens and laptops. The computer will leave the pocket and the desk and leap into the room itself. Combined with wireless Internet access, another technology chip that will miniaturize further, the possibilities when you merge this with the cloud is enormous.

Technology like this would inevitably fuel IoT designs, new products, new services, and create many new entrepreneurial activity. It can transform industries and change the structure of society itself. Some will call it a path to a subtle, but real, panopticon. Many will see it as a huge advance in freeing us to do higher value activities. Most could see it as a way to streamline living so that more people can live life more fully. Who can really say?

The field of vision based computing may provide many possibilities in all these directions. It is money. It may be opportunity. Challenges to centuries of tradition are on the near horizon. All from little, tiny chips.


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