One of the most interesting cameras to arrive in 2012 was the Lytro light-field camera, with its unique construction and optical properties that let users refocus and tweak their shots in software, well after the photo was initially snapped. It’s almost a bit like something out of science fiction, but this year it was truly a commercial reality. Now that same kind of technology could be finding its way to smartphones and tablets, thanks to a new sensor from Toshiba.
If you’ve ever used a Lytro, you surely noticed how bulky it was, at least compared to svelte point-and-shoot models. After all, there’s some complicated lens play involved to let the camera capture the information it needs to reconstruct a scene like it does. So, how do you fit that all in a smartphone? Toshiba’s module is still a little bulky as smartphones go, measuring about a centimeter thick, but that’s at least within the range of workable dimensions.
Toshiba’s light-field sensor contains half a million tiny lenses, which not only allow it to take refocusable still pictures, but even shoot video capable of being edited in the same fashion. Commercialization of the sensor should be done by the end of fiscal year 2013, and with any luck we could see it in smartphones sometime in 2014.