Research Spotlight: Tiny cameras with big impact

Panoptes conceptual artIn Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes was a giant sentry with a hundred eyes. In the lab of Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Marc Christensen, Panoptes is a camera technology that combines images from dozens of tiny lenses to focus on a big picture.

Lens performance tends to improve with size, which is why a small cell phone camera can’t produce a very good image. Panoptes uses a computer to combine overlapping images from the small lenses to produce a clear photo without the size and weight of a large lens.

The technology is being developed with funding from the U.S. military for surveillance by small aircraft at low altitudes. The research should eventually provide helmet-mounted surveillance equipment for soldiers on the ground.

Christensen, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, has built a nationally recognized research group in photonics and computational imaging. His work with imaging sensors and micro-mirror arrays has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), among others. In 2007 he received the DARPA Young Faculty Award.

Read more at the SMU Research blog.

In the news:

Danger Room (Wired): DARPA’s smart, flat camera is packed with beady eyes
Unfair Park (Dallas Observer): On the hilltop, SMU prof creating teensy-weensy military camera
Defense News: Sharper image for military surveillance