Pelican Imaging's prototype array camera could make your pictures better, phones thinner (video)

If you want to look for life on another planet you don't build one radio telescope that's miles wide, you build a bunch of smaller ones and create an array out of them. As it turns out that basic idea works for capturing visible wavelengths as well. It's called a plenoptic camera, using an array of very small lenses that, when combined, can create an image as good as a larger one. Pelican Imaging is largely interested in the slim factor this kind of system could offer, potentially allowing for thinner phones, but this could also open the door to some interesting effects. Check out the video after the break for an example of the dynamic aperture control this sort of setup can allow, where you can change the focal plane of an image after it was taken. Given the small size of the array here you probably couldn't do anything too crazy, like take a picture through a tree, but the days of poorly focused cameraphone shots might finally be at an end -- whenever this actually comes to market.

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Pelican Imaging Unveils Revolutionary Approach to Smartphone Cameras, Announces Three Technical Advisory Board Members

Company Attracts Renowned Experts in Development of Computational Array Cameras
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Feb. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Pelican Imaging Corporation, a venture-backed pioneer in computational imaging, today announced that it has developed the first prototype array camera for mobile devices. In addition, the company has announced its Technical Advisory Board comprised of three leading experts in computational imaging. The members are Professor Marc Levoy, Professor Shree K. Nayar and Dr. Bedabrata Pain.
The Technical Advisory Board leverages several decades of experience in helping guide Pelican Imaging's pioneering work building the industry's thinnest high-resolution camera, targeting smartphones and tablets.
"We are excited about attracting some of the foremost experts to Pelican's Technical Advisory Board. This relationship gives us a collaborative forum that leverages their unique insights and maximizes the potential of our architecture," said Kartik Venkataraman, CTO and co-founder of Pelican Imaging.
Pelican Imaging has developed a computational camera array architecture and fundamental intellectual property with 12 pending patent applications in array optics, sensors and image reconstruction algorithms. Pelican's camera improves upon image and video quality while allowing for thinner smartphones. New applications are also enabled by introducing features such as 3-D depth, gesture control, and the ability for users to interact with the image before and after capturing the shot.
"What Pelican has developed represents a paradigm shift in imaging and video that has the potential to overcome many of the inherent limitations of mobile cameras," said Professor Shree Nayar of Columbia University. "Pelican's expertise in optics, architecture and software algorithms uniquely positions the company to bring computational imaging applications to the mass market."
Professor Marc Levoy, of Stanford University commented, "Pelican's technology has the potential to upset the traditional tradeoff between the sensitivity and resolution of a camera and its thickness. It also brings new capabilities to cameras, including post-capture focusing, foveal imaging and programmable frame rates. We have been investigating these aspects of computational photography in our laboratory at Stanford for a number of years, through the Stanford Multi-Camera Array, which is big, slow and expensive. Pelican's solution is small, fast and inexpensive – which makes it a very exciting technology."
"Pelican's architecture relaxes key pixel design constraints, thereby enhancing pixel performance beyond those in legacy cameras. I am equally excited about its potential for early and cost-effective adoption of new sensor technologies. The next generation of mini- and micro-cameras is upon us," said Dr. Bedabrata Pain, CEO of Edict Inc.
Technical Advisory Board Members Bio
Dr. Marc Levoy – Currently a professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, Dr. Levoy co-designed the Google book scanner and launched Google's Street View project. In the 1970s, he worked on computer animation, developing a cartoon animation system that was used to make The Flintstones, Scooby Doo and other shows. His current activities include computational imaging techniques that extend the capabilities of digital photography. Dr. Levoy has been awarded the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator (1991), ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award (1996) and Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Fellow (2007).
Dr. Shree Nayar – Currently the T. C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, he co-directs the Columbia Vision and Graphics Center and heads the Columbia Computer Vision Laboratory (CAVE), which is dedicated to the development of computational cameras and vision systems. In 2008, Dr. Nayar was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
Dr. Bedabrata Pain – Currently the CEO of Edict Inc., a technology consulting firm, he was previously a senior research scientist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech. Dr. Pain is a co-inventor of the active pixel sensor technology that resulted in the development of the world's smallest camera in 1995 at NASA, and subsequently sparked the explosion in cameraphones. In 1997, Dr. Pain was inducted to the U.S. Space Technology Hall of Fame.
About Pelican Imaging
Headquartered in Mountain View, California, and founded in 2008, Pelican Imaging Corporation is a venture-backed software and IP start-up in the business of commercializing computational array cameras for the mobile market. Pelican's array camera directly addresses the challenges posed by conventional camera design and small pixels. Investors include Globespan Capital Partners, Granite Ventures, InterWest Partners and IQT. For more information, go to
Pelican Imaging and Pelican are trademarks of Pelican Imaging Corporation. All other brands or product names are the property of their respective holders.
SOURCE Pelican Imaging Corporation