The reason your camera currently can’t hide in a business card or in the wallpaper of the terrifying hotel on a lonely country road is because of lenses. Those damn lenses, no matter how small we make a camera, tend to take up a good chunk of space such that, even if the camera is hidden, it has to hide in something with at least a little bulk to it. Or it used to, anyway.
Engineers from Rice University are taking inspiration from ancient pinhole cameras to design a new kind of camera that’s basically paper-flat and devoid of a lens. Like a pinhole camera it uses a hole to let in light. Unlike a pinhole camera, and to make better use of light, it has millions of holes. A little computer science allows the camera to reconstruct one solid image from the many images let in by the numerous holes and voila, you have a functional camera that’s super thin. So thin, in fact, you could paper an entire wall with them and have access to viewing an entire room. Good for surveillance purposes, creepy for people with suspicious landlords.
Less creepy but more artsy is the idea of a 360 degree camera. Wrap the cameras around something and you can view it from all sides at once.
According to its inventor, the images from the cameras right now are on par with first generation digital cameras, but will be improving rapidly. He also says he imagines people will come up with ideas he’s never even thought of for how to use the cameras, and no doubt he’s right about that.
A flat camera that you can basically manipulate like paper could have dozens of applications; secret body and dash cams, easily hidden security cameras virtually everywhere. You could up the ante on the GoPro market by being able to use the cameras in far more extreme conditions, or in much crazier places. Want to see where pizza rat is taking his meal? Pop a paper cam on it. Or put one on a helium balloon and let it loose in a storm. Not to mention all the crazy porn angles.
If you could roll out cameras like you roll out tape or paper, what could you do with them?