Rice University creates single-pixel camera

Taking the less is more approach

The pixel war normally involves cramming more and more capability into tiny little devices. However, researchers at Rice University have flipped this on its head and decided that less is more.

Scientists at the academic site in Houston, Texas have developed a way of building a single pixel into a camera which they claim to be a cheaper way to take pictures in the future.

The camera uses one photodiode and one digital micro-mirror device (DMD), which is normally used in digital TVs and projectors to convert digital info to light (and vice versa) via thousands of tiny built-in mirrors.

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The light is shone onto the DMD and bounced from there though a second lens that focuses the light reflected by the DMD onto a single photodiode. The DMD's mirrors do a random shuffle for each new glimmer of light, creating a new pixel value.

The DMD and the two lenses thus compress data from a bigger image (on the left) into a smaller approximation (right).

We're unlikely to see this technology making any huge reductions in prices on consumer digital cameras any time soon. Rice University scientists say that using this technique, each picture takes five minutes to shoot and so far they can only do still shots. Anna Lagerkvist