How many times have you been watching a movie or tv show, only for it to be ruined by absolutely ridiculous, out of place, futuristic technology? It looks like the ability to magnify and sharpen images to draw out surprising levels of detail may not be so far fetched for very much longer.
For me, perhaps the most annoying and most common example comes when there are a bunch of analysts pouring over blurry CCTV footage of the bad guy. They say things like “Enhance that corner” or “Can you sharpen that up?” Then, after a few mouse clicks and a couple of seconds of processing a beautifully crisp image of a face appears on the screen. Of course, they can then cross reference this image with the faces of every human who ever lived to give the name and address of the guy they’re after.
I can’t promise Hollywood will suddenly start using realistic, believable technology, but it looks like real-life technology might be catching up.
DARPA have been investigating ways of capturing seriously high resolution images and are aiming to build a system capable of taking 50 gigapixel images. That’s a lot of pixels, much more than the human eye can see and more than the Ultra Hi-Definition systems in development.
Earlier this year, DARPA tested a camera with 1.4 gigapixel resolution, and the results were pretty impressive. You can see from these images that it’s only possible to make out certain details after zooming in on areas of the complete picture.
The system used to take pictures like this is made up of 100-150 small cameras, with a spherical objective lens. The images recorded by these small cameras are combined into the complete high resolution picture. The current version of the camera is quite large, with the vast majority of it’s volume taken up with the processors required to align and stitch the images together. However, it is hoped that in the future a camera such as this could be available in a hand held unit.
So, whilst Hollywood continues to push the boundaries of what is technologically possible it looks like this time, engineers are not too far behind.
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