In 2013, Rajiv Laroia and Dave Grannan started Light, a company that aimed to disrupt the tiny camera market. The ultimate goal was to provide designs, circuitry, and software to mobile device manufacturers so that smartphones could capture images at qualities that rivaled those taken with bulky, expensive, professional camera lenses. But it turns out the best use of Light’s depth camera technology might not be taking better snapshots, but in helping cars see better.
From an article in IEEE Spectrum by Tekla S. Perry.
The technology is built around using an array of inexpensive lenses of varying focal lengths and advanced digital signal processing. Light showcased its approach by releasing a standalone camera—the 16-lens L16—in 2017, and sold out of its initial production run; the number of units was never made public.
Part of the magic of Light’s images is the ability to select or change the point of focus after the fact. The multiple camera modules, set slightly apart, also mean that Light cameras can determine a depth value for each pixel in the scene allowing the software to create a three-dimensional map of the objects in the image.
This ability to create a depth map meant that the consumer-targeted L16 got attention from businesses interested in things other than pretty pictures. A rental car company in Germany set up an array of cameras to inspect cars being dropped off for damage; Wayfair experimented with Light’s technology to place furniture within images of rooms. And Light CEO Grannan says the company always hoped to use computational imaging for machine vision as well as consumer cameras.
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