Light field technology is making its way into the mainstream, but the production and assembly of some of its components has not quite reached an efficient scale of mass production.
A typical light field sensor consists of an ordinary image sensor and a microlens array (MLA) or printedmask.
In the assembly of light field sensors, one of the most vital processes is the precise adjustment of the MLA‘s position on the sensor. This adjustment is required for every individual sensor and can thus take up a long time. Since the MLA is usually positioned using screws or springs, physical impact on the light field camera may displace the light field sensor’s layers.
With today’s light field sensors, extracting 3D stereo images from light field recordings typically results in a lowered effective image resolution – but that limitation may soon be history: Sony has developed a novel sensor design with overlapping pixels in two layers, that will allow 3D output without the typical decrease in image resolution. In Sony’s recently granted US Patent, Nr. US20140071244, author Isao Hirota introduces a dual level microlens array setup in combination with a sensor that consists of two layers of light sensitive pixel grids – front-facing and back-facing grids that are rotated at, for example, 45 degrees.
The described configuration allows different neighbouring pixels to share the same information from a single microlens while being allocated to either the left or right stereo views, resulting in higher-resolution 3D stereo output from a single-lens, single-sensor device (i.e. a “monocular 3D stereo camera”).
About a year ago, Nvidia presented a novel head-mounted display that is based on light field technology and offers both depth and refocus capability to the human eye. Their so-called Near-Eye Light Field Display was more a proof of concept, but it’s exciting new technology that solves a number of existing problems with stereoscopic virtual reality glasses.
Nvidia researcher Douglas Lanman recently gave a talk at Augmented World Expo (AWE2014), in which he explained the background and evolution of head-mounted displays and the history and design of Nvidia’s near-eye light field display prototypes: Continue reading →
One of the most exciting fields in science where light field imaging (or plenoptic imaging) has a great potential is microscopy: Not only is the depth of field very limited in microscopy, it also enables us to observe things much smaller than what the eye can see. Extended depth of field and 3D reconstruction would offer many opportunities, such as to better understand the three-dimensional internal structure of plant- or animal cells and tissues, to name just one example.
3D imaging using multi-camera approaches is very difficult in microscopy due to space limitations and the strong effects of parallax, but light field imaging can solve these problems. Until now, however, light field microscopy is still largely defined by resource-intensive post-processing, which limits real-time applications and observations.
In a recent publication in the journal Optics Express, researchers from Seoul National University and Harvard Medical School in Boston present a novel light field microscopy system that enables light field microscopy with real-time 3D display. Continue reading →
Today’s light field technology is facing a trade-off: The more depth resolution you want, the smaller the effective image becomes. Two years ago, German light field specialist Raytrix introduced a light field camera with an effective image resolution of 25 % the sensor’s resolution, which was already a big step upward.
Now, Panasonic has been granted a patent titled “Light field image capture device and image sensor”, which details a new sensor system that records light fields at 100 % of the sensor resolution.