IP licensing company Rambus Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) is developing a lensless form image sensor that replaces the lens with a diffraction grating and computation. The idea is that it will provide a low-cost and non bulky form of imaging that can be added to many things as a means of improving their contextual awareness, that could not justify the bulk and cost of lensed image sensors.
When the Rambus diffraction grating replaces the focusing lens the output of a standard image sensor becomes a complex pattern of spirals, that would be meaningless to a human observer.
Rambus has developed algorithms that allow computation of position of the image field that would have produced the spiral-based pattern thereby providing a sense of vision to the object.
While an individual sensor might provide rudimentary vision that would not be acceptable to a human observer it might be more than enough to provide a robot or airborne drone with enough visual capability to avoid obstacles.
The use of multiple lensless sensors distributed across the periphery of an autonomous object could be used to build up a sophisticated 3D map of the world around an object.
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