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Toshiba developing Lytro-like refocusing camera sensor

Lytro made a splash with its light-field camera that lets you refocus images after they have been shot (a technology so impressive, it made it our camera of the year). It seems that Toshiba has been paying attention to this user-enriching feature, as the Asahi Shimbun newspaper (via The Verge) is reporting that the Japanese electronics company is working on an image sensor that lets smartphones and tablets perform that Lytro-like trick.

A sample image provided by Toshiba demonstrates the sensor’s refocusing effect post-capture.

Unlike Lytro’s palm-sized camera, Toshiba’s module is a smaller cube with an array of 500,000 lenses (each 0.03mm in diameter) in front of an image sensor measuring 5 x 7mm. Each lens takes a picture that’s slightly different from another. Proprietary Toshiba software is then used to combine the 500,000 images captured to create one large image that can be refocused far and near. The module can also capture video with the same refocusing effect. The lens design works similar to the compound eye structure of insects.

While smaller than Lytro’s technology, the module is still bigger than what today’s thin smartphones and tablets can accommodate. Still, Toshiba is hoping to start selling the sensor by end of fiscal 2013, and is already seeking device manufacturers to embed the sensor into smartphones and tablets.

(Images via Asahi Shimbun)

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