Pentagon-funded gigapixel camera could transform crowd surveillance

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The research project got $25 million in DARPA funding.

Pentagon-funded scientists at Duke University have created an experimental camera that generates images with more than 1 billion pixels and captures photos with startling detail, the MIT Technology Review reports. The invention could revolutionize how crowd and aerial surveillance is conducted.

The camera would allow viewers to zoom in on portions of a panoramic shot to say, recognize faces and street signs. The project is outlined in this week's issue of the journal Nature. A still picture made out of 1 billion pixels yields five times as much detail as can be seen by a person with 20/20 vision, according to the Wall Street Journal. The research project got $25 million in funding from the military venture capital wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to the Journal.

The team’s device has 98 high-quality micro-cameras similar to those found in smart phones behind a camera lens. The micro-cameras process different portions of the image separately.

Gigapixel images, until now, have been generated either by creating very large film negatives and then scanning them at extremely high resolutions or by stitching together separate digital pictures on a computer. The scientists’ new camera opens up the possibility of capturing high-res shots on a hand-held device.