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Scientists create world’s first self-powered camera (though it needs some work)

No, the somewhat eerie picture above isn’t showing off a new Instagram filter called Murky (or Dismal?), it’s actually an image taken by a revolutionary new kind of digital video camera that’s entirely self-powered.

That’s right, this particular contraption, developed by scientists at Columbia University, is able to function quite happily without the need for a battery or solar panels, a development that means the dreaded low-battery warning sign on your smartphone or standalone shooter could one day be a thing of the past.

Related: Lens technology from Harvard researchers removes need for color correction

So how does it work? Well, after realizing that camera sensors function in a similar way to solar cells, the team designed a sensor that incorporates technology capable of transferring the light that it receives into usable energy.

“We have designed a simple pixel circuit, where the pixel’s photodiode can be used to not only measure the incident light level, but also to convert the incident light into electrical energy,” the research team said on the project’s website.

Although the camera’s current technology means the resulting images are, to put it mildly, a little on the fuzzy side (the sensor only has 1200 pixels, after all), the scientists behind the project believe big improvements are on the way, and claim its technology “could lead to a fully self-powered solid-state image sensor that produces a useful resolution and frame rate.”

“We are in the middle of a digital imaging revolution,” lead researcher Shree Nayar said in a release.

He added, “I think we have just seen the tip of the iceberg. Digital imaging is expected to enable many emerging fields, including wearable devices, sensor networks, smart environments, personalized medicine, and the Internet of Things. A camera that can function as an untethered device forever – without any external power supply – would be incredibly useful.”

You can check out a video shot by the self-powered camera above.

[Source: Columbia University]