Bill Blake February 15, 2023 9:39 AM

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
(And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour)

Winter February 15, 2023 10:45 AM


I wonder how small they have gotten by now.

I suppose the limit is the wavelength of the “light” used. Image formation becomes difficult when you enter the range of standing wave interference. Also, a smaller lens area means less light. A very small lens captures very little light.

But in these sizes, a grain of salt is very big indeed. There is room to go downward.

Peter A. February 15, 2023 11:24 AM

As I see it, the picture and text describes an innovative lens using some interference-causing nanostructure (somewhat like a Fresnel lens). Where’s detector array and processing unit?

ResearcherZero February 15, 2023 12:37 PM

Doped fiber has some interesting properties that can be harnessed for use with various wavelengths for optical and sonic applications.

Ted February 15, 2023 3:04 PM

So is this research primarily discussing the technology behind a much smaller lens – enabled by a metasurface imager with AI processing?

Very cool. Those are some impressive advancements in optic technology.

Ethan Tseng gives an awesome presentation on this development as part of a course series on “Differentiable Cameras and Displays.”

His presentation (about 25 minutes) is titled “Neural Nano-Optics for High-Quality Thin Lens Imaging.”

The course series homepage has a link to his presentation, code, and course slides.

Here are tweets from Ethan and Felix Heide linking to the course.

R.Cake February 16, 2023 5:39 AM

@Peter A. – yes correct, only the lens is shown. The sensor could probably be a CMOS or CCD image sensor, with a size matching the lens.
Looking at the obvious desires to use this in endoscopes, an issue will actually be created by the lack of reliable technology to cut circles. You note that the shown example lens is square, and so of course are all ICs manufactured to date. If you want to mount such a system inside an endoscope, either you give it a square end or you have to give away a lot of front surface area, which is a bit of a pity.

While it may be possible to etch such lenses into a round shape, that will not be possible with the imaging sensor IC. Still, a slightly larger round lens with a square image sensor behind it will probably do the job.
Another question of course is the stability and aging behavior. I would imagine that such a geometrical nanostructure needs to be protected to work well, and there might be issues with aging / oxidation over time.

Duchess Gloriana XII of Grand Fenwick February 16, 2023 8:27 AM

I suspect most people reading this are technologist who will marble at how far we have come and wonder what kind of human problems can be solved with this breakthrough. Look at the today’s world and ask yourself what this will be used for. I submit to you that chances are that it will overwhelmingly be used for surveillance and not to help humanity.

vas pup February 16, 2023 5:47 PM

@Duchess Gloriana

That part resonate with Your concern:

“Heide also envisions using ultracompact imagers to create “surfaces as sensors.” “We could turn individual surfaces into cameras that have ultra-high resolution, so you wouldn’t need three cameras on the back of your phone anymore, but the whole back of your phone would become one giant camera. We can think of completely different ways to build devices in the future,” he said.”

And no hardware kill switch for camera?

Clive Robinson February 16, 2023 6:57 PM

@ vas pup, Duchess Gloriana, and any other mice,

“And no hardware kill switch for camera?”

You still need the photo-diodes to use quantum effcts to turn photons into movments of charge.

To make those movments of charge usefull they have to under go some kind of serialization, then go down a communications channel.

As a first approximation, remove either the communications channel or the power into the chip and it will cease to be of use as a camera…

Thus the next question is,

“Does the chip need to be powered from an electrical source?”

The answer is no, the chip could also be in part a solar cell.

Which makes the next question more intetesting,

“Does the communications channel need to be physical such as a wire or optical fiber?”

The answer is no, but using an EM field has certain limits based on energy per bit of information.

I suspect that the energy required for a reasonable fidelity of signal in what is an electrically noisy environment will exceed that which can be harvested from the environment with a similar sized solar cell as the camera sensor.

vas pup February 16, 2023 7:43 PM

@Clive on behalf of all mice

So what is technical solution (not software) in your expert opinion to return control of ‘one giant camera’ to the user and avoid unauthorized access to it by hackers, deep state, criminals of all flavors you name it?

Is one giant microphone is next coming?

Thank you.

Clive Robinson February 16, 2023 9:54 PM

@ vas pup,

I just tried to reply to you and got the “on hold for approval” message.

Why I don’t know.

It’s early in the morning in the UK and if I can get it I need sleep.

So I’ll try to sort it out tomorrow.

Goetz Schultz February 17, 2023 5:00 AM

As scary the thought of snooping is, I can see a valid use e.g. in medicine or other diagnostics (engines). But this is the crux with modern tech. It can be used both ways … And my guess is, that we will find it in surveillance before we see it for any useful use cases.

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