A Smart-Phone Camera that Offers More than Megapixels

The next generation of smartphone cameras might actually be 25 cameras rolled into one. A company called Pelican Imaging recently announced it had developed the first prototype “array camera” for mobile devices. Instead of using one lens, Pelican uses an array of multiple lenses; it combines all the data from these multiple viewpoints and then builds a single high-quality image. Since it uses software to process the image, this is sometimes called “computational imaging.”

Why does the invention matter? Here’s one very simple reason: it could cut down on the width of your iPhone 7, say, or other smartphone of the future. More intriguingly, though, the computational approach allows all sorts of interesting manipulations. It enables “foveal imaging,” for one, a type of focus that more closely mimics how the eye actually sees. And it could even give you the ability to alter the focus of an image after the image has been taken. (Outlets from CNET to Engadget have been drooling over that one, in particular.)

Pelican Imaging was founded in 2008 and has received $17 million in venture funding to date from investor

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