Even as all the smartphones keep getting thinner, there is still one spot that keeps sticking out; the camera lens. Taking good pictures and being able to focus at multiple distances requires a layer of glass that's a certain size, but there's really no getting around it -- or is there?
Researchers at Caltech have devised an "optical phased array" chip that uses math as a substitute for a lens. According to Professor Ali Hajimirir it "can switch from a fish-eye to a telephoto lens instantaneously, with just a simple adjustment in the way the array receives light.
The principle is similar to the way phased communication arrays can focus and steer radio waves in a particular direction, but working in reverse.Now, for the first time a 2D, lensless camera array capable of capturing a low res image of a barcode. The image itself isn't particularly impressive compared to what your iPhone is capable of, but as a proof of concept, it's a big deal. Right now the chip consists of an 8x8 grid with 64 sensors, and the team's next goal is scaling the camera to support larger receivers that are more sensitive and capture a higher-res picture.