Zoom, enhance: Multi-gigapixel AWARE2 camera takes incredibly detailed pictures

AWARE2 CameraThe AWARE2 is a prototype camera made by a team of engineers from Duke University in North Carolina, which can take pictures at a resolution of 1.4-gigapixels, revealing incredible levels of detail in each one.

Now, before you turn away from your DSLR in disgust, the AWARE2 won’t be coming to the high street anytime soon, for two reasons. The first is because the research is currently being funded by DARPA, who aren’t all that bothered about its commercial aspects just yet, and the second is due to its size.

The structure is made up of 98, 14-megapixel camera lenses, and is 30-inches square by 20-inches deep. It also weighs 205-pounds (93 kg, making it unlikely to be the first piece of equipment you’d grab for a family day out at the beach.

It works like this: Each individual camera is given a dedicated area in its field of view to picture, then after each image is captured using, it’s all stitched together to make one, giant composite shot. Rather than spend time fine-tuning the optics, the team has chosen to focus on the software side to create the images.

DARPA wants to use the technology for surveillance purposes, like this drone, and will eventually shrink down to a more manageable size, a process estimated to take another five years. Another aim is to make the camera “scalable” so it can deliver pictures below a gigapixel or in the “tens of gigapixels.” As it stands right now, the camera can be scaled to shoot 2, 10 or 40 gigapixels, and the next stage after AWARE2 is AWARE10, which will shoot images at 5 or 10 gigapixels, and it’s expected to be tested later on this year.

AWARE2 in detail

If you’re curious about the technology behind the AWARE2’s optics and its construction, you can read a very detailed explanation here, just be aware (sorry) it assumes a fair amount of prior knowledge on the reader’s behalf.

For the rest of us, an example image is needed to make sense of a multi-gigapixel camera. Luckily, several have been provided, and although they’re not color stunners you’ll want to hang on your wall, they do let you zoom in to reveal some amazing details.

Have fun playing “count the Prius’ in the carpark” on the Planes and Boats picture, and find the guy with the bald head in Seattle Skyline, then check out the resolution table on the back wall in Looking Across the Atrium.

Also, if you haven’t been saying “zoom, enhance” while playing with the pictures, you’ve been doing it wrong.