It's official: the megapixel race is over and the future of digital photography is... a single pixel.
Researchers at Rice University have developed a terahertz frequency digital camera home to just one pixel, that could lead to breakthrough technologies in security, telecom, signal processing and medicine.
Single-pixel snappers use compressive sensing algorithms and terahertz modulators to do with one pixel what it takes commercial digital cameras millions.
Terahertz radiation (or T-rays) are harmless to humans and nestle between infrared and microwave in the spectrum. They can penetrate fabric, wood and plastic but not metal or water, making them ideal for security screening in airports.
One pixel wonder
Combining T-rays with a single-pixel digital camera makes possible high speed 'hyperspectral' cameras that can see through clothes - and camouflage, says Kevin Kelly, a professor at Rice University in Teaxs.
"Normal cameras break an image down into red, green and blue. But this system breaks down every pixel into all the individual wavelengths that make up a color. If you want to know whether that green object over there is a bunch of trees or a tank painted green, this system will tell you."
We would tell you more about the military applications of single pixel technology but 1) we don't really understand it, and 2) we'd probably get a visit from some serious men wearing suits and earpieces. In fact, for your own safety, forget everything we just wrote.
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Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.