SMU Develops High Tech Micro Camera

Tiny video camera could be used by soldiers on front lines

By Walt Maciborski, The 33 News

Cutting edge micro cameras are being developed in a basement lab at Southern Methodist University. The project is code-named Panoptes, more on its name later.

Associate Professor Marc Christensen says his undergraduate and graduate researchers at SMU's Photonic Architectures Lab are about to take a giant leap into the future of photography.

"What we're working on here is trying to develop the next generation of cameras," Christensen says.
Christensen's team is creating video and still cameras that are as thin as about two credit cards, covered with tiny mirrored lenses.

"The original program was driven by the department of defense, (because) they have a need to have tactical imagery, and they don't want to only have it on platforms that are as large as a Predator UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), " Christensen says. "They would like to fit this camera on something the size of a model airplane or something that could fit in the palm of your hand."

The tiny camera works by using dozens or hundreds of tiny lenses, a computer and a program that stitches all of those images together into one high resolution picture. And, because the cameras are so lightweight and thin, you can put them almost anywhere.

"It could go on the helmet of a soldier it could go on a fire and rescue worker. It could go on the hallway of an installation, or an airport if you wanted to do security footage there."

Now, back to the project's name, Panoptes. Argus Panoptes was giant guard in Greek mythology who had hundreds of eyes. SMU's research team thought the name was perfect because they are using hundreds of camera lenses or eyes for its new camera. Panoptes is also an acronym for: "Processing Arrays of Nyquist-limited Observations to Produce a Thin Electro-optic Sensor."

Or, you could just call it the tiny camera project.