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Seeing the Big Picture

By Samuel Greengard

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 56 No. 12, Pages 16-18
10.1145/2534706.2534712

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Over the last decade, digital photography has revolutionized the way people snap, store, and share photos. It has unleashed remarkable features and capabilities that have transformed the way we think about images...and the world around us. Yet, for all the advances in megapixels and signal processing, one fact remains: "Today's digital cameras were designed to replace analog information-gathering devices such as film," observes Richard Baraniuk, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University.

However, times and technology are changing. Researchers are exploring how to use computational optics and digital imagery in new and innovative ways. Lensless cameras, single-pixel imagery, devices that can see around corners and a number of other technology breakthroughs could transform photography and computational optics in ways that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. These devices—particularly as they capture images outside the visible light spectrum—could address a wide array of challenges, from managing traffic networks and fighting crime to improving medicine.

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