Kartik Venkataraman, Pelican Imaging speaks exclusively on plenoptic cameras
28 January 2013
Interview with Image Sensors 2013 speaker Kartik Venkataraman, Founder and CTO, Pelican Imaging, USA
Rob Stead, Image Sensors Director speaks exclusively with Kartik Venkataraman in the lead up to the event. To view the full list of speakers for Image Sensors 2013 please view the full agenda.
Q. Please briefly describe your background in digital imaging
"With a PhD in Computer Science (Computer Graphics/Animation), Kartik's industry background spans over 20 years of working in two companies - Intel and Micron. Kartik started as a CPU design in the early 90's at Intel and moved over to 3D graphics software. He spent several years working on a joint program between Intel and Institute of Systems Science at Singapore and Johns Hopkins on medical imaging and visualization focusing on visualization for cranio-facial surgical simulation systems. Kartik then joined a startup (Rendition) to do 3D graphics accelerators that was acquired by Micron. Micron, then switched course from graphics to imaging with the acquisition of Photobit and Kartik moved over to the imaging group, based on his background in medical imaging, to work on the sensors for the Given imaging pill-cam. Kartik has been working in mobile imaging software pretty much since the early days of CMOS imaging and lead several groups at Micron doing Camera simulations to predict sensor performance for next generation pixels and then working on Extended Depth of Field (EDoF) Camera Systems before leaving in 2008 to start Pelican Imaging Corporation."
Q. Plenoptic cameras haven't taken off to date in high volume markets like cameraphones - is Pelican Imaging about to change that?
"That certainly is the objective. Both Plenoptic cameras and camera arrays have been active areas of research in the academic and industrial community over the last 10+ years and there have been plenty of approaches that explored viewpoint synthesis, synthetic focus, and computing range images among others. However, none of these approaches address the issue of scalability jointly, in terms of resolution, form factor, and overall image quality. We bring a system approach to the problem that specifically addresses these aspects to make it commercially viable for consumers."
Q. Besides processing power and the increased number of pixels compared with a single-lens camera module, what are the other challenges to overcome with this approach?
"Besides the ones you mention, the biggest challenges have to do with the developing an optics design that can be manufactured in high volume, and the signal and image processing algorithms that synthesize high resolution images. On top of that was convincing the component manufacturers and integrators to take the risk to join us in redefining how images are captured and manipulated."
Q. What are the novel applications for this type of image capture in a camera phone application?
"Clearly the biggest advantage of this approach is that you are getting not just an image of the scene but also its depth. The camera array needs to be seen as a both an imaging device and a 3D acquisition device. The technology is passive, low light capable, small enough to fit into the mobile device one carries around, and produces high quality high resolution images. From that point of view, it allows one to imagine all sorts of capabilities given the availability of a high resolution depth map along with the high resolution image. Besides synthetic refocus (in post capture still and live video) some of the applications would be distance measurement, scene segmentation, object level manipulation and filtering as well as 3D modeling and just about anything that can be further enhanced with the availability of a depth map."
Q. Finally, we are pleased to have you on board for the conference this year, what are you hoping to gain from the event?
"Thank you. We are honored to have been invited. What we are looking forward to is to clarify what cameras arrays can really do - in terms of whether the resolutions can scale well and compete with the legacy cameras, and the resolution and accuracy of the depth map. Enabling a system such as this in the industry requires significant effort across the entire ecosystem - from optics, sensors, and application processors to module integration. As with any new technology the more the industry invests in the required infrastructure the more competitive the technology can get. I am hoping this will be a good avenue to start that dialog in the industry as to how this approach addresses many of the industry and consumers needs and wants and how to continue to improve performance and opportunities to all of us."
Read the exclusive interview with Jim DeFilippis a keynote speaker at IS2013. Jim, CEO MESA IMAGING shares his thoughts on 3D imager & display technology
Take a browse through the agenda to view other IS2013 keynote speakers.
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