Apr 13, 2017

The endgame for cameras is having no camera at all

Posted by in categories: computing, internet, mobile phones

I’ve been reading about Gcam, the Google X project that was first sparked by the need for a tiny camera to fit inside Google Glass, before evolving to power the world-beating camera of the Google Pixel. Gcam embodies an atypical approach to photography in seeking to find software solutions for what have traditionally been hardware problems. Well, others have tried, but those have always seemed like inchoate gimmicks, so I guess the unprecedented thing about Gcam is that it actually works. But the most exciting thing is what it portends.

I think we’ll one day be able to capture images without any photographic equipment at all.

Now I know this sounds preposterous, but I don’t think it’s any more so than the internet or human flight might have once seemed. Let’s consider what happens when we tap the shutter button on our cameraphones: light information is collected and focused by a lens onto a digital sensor, which converts the photons it receives into data that the phone can understand, and the phone then converts that into an image on its display. So we’re really just feeding information into a computer.

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