Gigapixel Aware-2 camera is the PureView of tomorrow

There's been some interesting developments in the camera arena over the past year, with Nokia showing off the 41-megapixel packing 808 PureView at MWC and customers getting a taste of the Lytro not long after. How about a camera with a billion pixels? That's what researchers at Duke University are currently working on, with resulting images containing extreme amounts of detail even when zoomed in.

The team have taken around 100 cameras with 14-megapixel sensors and placed them around the outside of a sphere. Each camera takes a separate image, and a computer attached to the rig then pieces them together to create the final result, although it takes 18 seconds to process everything. Aware-2, as the camera is called, is said to be around the size of two stacked microwave ovens and weighs around 100 pounds.

Currently the project is funded by the US Department of Defense to the tune of $25 million, with the military interested in potential aerial surveillance applications. The team say that they're able to accurately read street signs in photos taken from a half-mile away, so you can imagine the interest in such a device. The problem is getting it down to a portable size: scientists say it would take at least several years for that to happen.

There are other limitations too. Right now the Aware-2 only takes black and white images, but the team is planning to build a 10-gigapixel version that will take color images later this year. After that, they're aiming even higher with a 50-gigapixel model.

[via The Wall Street Journal]