A team of researchers led by Jun Tanida at the University of Osaka look to be making some steady progress in an area where many others have tread before, developing a camera that can capture a scene and produce a 3D image of it. Dubbed TOMBO (Thin Observation Module by Bound Optics), the camera consists of nine tiny lenses that each capture a scene from slightly different angles. Some software, apparently designed to mimic the the process that insects use, then picks out the position, shape, and color of objects to reconstruct the images into a single 3D scene. The big advantage to this particular system is its size, which the researchers say could eventually be used in cellphones or placed on the wings of airplanes for surveillance without causing any drag. There are a few downsides, however, namely its 1.1 megapixel resolution, although the researchers seem confident they'll be able to improve that in short order.

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Researchers develop ultrathin compound-eye camera