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AI Enables the Development of a New Camera the Size of a Grain of Salt

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

An ultra-compact camera equivalent to the size of a coarse grain of salt (0.5mm) has been developed by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Washington. This micro-camera has huge potential, having overcome historic isses with microcamera whereby they often captured distorted and fuzzy images with a limited field of view. This new camera can produce crisp, full-colour images on par with that of a conventional compound camera lens, 500,000 times larger in volume than this system. It does so by relying on what is called metasurface technology – the surface of the camera lens is studded with 1.6 million cylindrical postseach of which have varying designs that come together to correctly shape the entire optical wavefront that interacts with light to produce the highest image quality that a micro-camera of this size is capable of. This unique surface has been combined with machine-learning image processing that enables the camera to produce clear images in natural lighting.The surfaces are made from silicon nitride, a material that makes them compatible with microchip manufacturing. This means they could be cheaper and faster to produce than current full-size camera lenses. Camera’s with imagers that are an order of magnitude smaller than current technology allows could enable numerous novel applications in nano-robotics including robotic surgery, Augmented and Virtual Reality and health monitoring to name a few.


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