This is great! Pelican Imaging, a California based company founded in 2008, recently announced the development of their new plenoptic camera system. This is a revolutionary system that (unfortunately) won’t be available until 2014, but Pelican Imaging can’t wait that long to show us some more. This array camera uses 16 distinct lenses and imaging channels in a 4×4 grid. Each sub-camera in this grid captures only one color (red, blue or green). Because of this separation, the noise that results from cross-talk is removed. This improves the image quality much in the same way as a professional video camera uses three separate sensor chips for each color.
Besides this, there are small distances between the sub-cameras. So every image also contains 3D depth information. Pelican’s software translates this into singe JPEG files that are just 20 percent larger than regular JPEG’s. These special JPEG files contain a lot more info and have some huge advantages. They have less noice at low light, and should contain focus information of an entire scene. This way you can select the desired focus point even after taking the image.
There is a focus difference in these pictures. If you don’t see it, click on enlarge 🙂
You might think: Ok, nice, but what has this got to do with 3D printing?
This new Pelican Imaging technology might well be the revolutionary scanning mobile phone add-on we’ve been waiting for. Because of the multi camera grid and the software that can translate the included 3D depth information, 3D images can be created and translated into printable CAD files. Check out this great video they made to demonstrate the possibilities:
There are already some big investors linked to this project, one of them is Nokia Growth Partners. This is interesting because a while back Pelican Imaging had some intriguing things to say about what could happen if its array camera was paired with Nokia’s PureView technology. This is a revolutionary Nokia Mobile technology that surprisingly did not very well after its introduction.
We can’t wait!