Columbia Engineers Develop Flexible Sheet Cameras

Posted on April 15, 2016

Flexible lens array

Researchers at Columbia Engineering have developed a sheet camera that can wrap around everyday objects. The camera can capture images that cannot be taken with conventional cameras. The flexible lens array the researchers developed adapts its optical properties when the sheet camera is bent.

The research team was led by Shree K. Nayar, T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia Engineering. The research team includes research engineer Daniel Sims BS’14 and postdoctoral researcher Yonghao Yue.

Nayar says in the announcement, "Cameras today capture the world from essentially a single point in space. While the camera industry has made remarkable progress in shrinking the camera to a tiny device with ever increasing imaging quality, we are exploring a radically different approach to imaging. We believe there are numerous applications for cameras that are large in format but very thin and highly flexible."

The researchers say that once the imaging system can be cheaply manufactured it could then be wrapped around things like street poles, furniture, cars and clothes. They also say it could lead to cameras the size of credit cards that a photographer could flex to control its field of view. The researchers say the elastic lens array they developed helps get around the problem of missing or aliased information.

Nayar also says, "The adaptive lens array we have developed is an important step towards making the concept of flexible sheet cameras viable. The next step will be to develop large-format detector arrays to go with the deformable lens array. The amalgamation of the two technologies will lay the foundation for a new class of cameras that expand the range of applications that benefit from imaging."

The future will be a world where nearly anything can be a camera or covered with thin sheet camera technology. Take a look:



Yonghao Yue and Daniel Sims with a flexible sheet camera


Photo: Columbia Computer Vision Laboratory