With the project facetVision, Fraunhofer is developing ultra-thin cameras for industry and smartphones.
As part of facetVision, a project funded by the Fraunhofer Future Foundation, we are collaborating with the FraunhoferInstitute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF to develop a process for producing a camera just a few millimeters in height. Our inspiration for this comes from nature: much like an insect eye, the lens for the new camera consists of 135 tiny facets. The camera is just two millimeters thick and has the potential for a resolution of up to four megapixels. This is possible thanks to a combination of state-of-the-art sensor technology and algorithms from light- field technology. We use the slightly different perspectives of each individual lens facet to generate a high-resolution overall image and glean information about the depth of the scene in question. We have achieved this with an innovative algorithm that can assemble the partial images to form an overall image while compensating for parallax (optical displacement). The technology can pave the way for novel applications in the automotive industry and for medical technology. The basic principle is also suitable for making ultra-thin smartphone cameras. With multiple small lenses, the cameras will require considerably less installation space. The impractical “camera bulges” on smartphones (caused by the sensor and lens) will soon be confined to the past.