Toshiba challenges Lytro with its new refocusing smartphone sensor
Lytro, the kaleidoscope-like camera that hit the markets last year had a special advantage to it. It could refocus the image, AFTER it was taken. It was a market disruption and there was no competition, till now. Yes, Toshiba has now announced that they are manufacturing a similar sensor that can be used for Smartphones and Tablets with commercial availability slated for sometime around 2013.
Toshiba says that the refocusing is possible thanks to the 500,00o micro lenses available on the sensor that can capture a slightly different image through a compound arrangement. This is very much similar to the Light field camera that is Lytro. However, we are not sure if the Toshiba sensor too might be of low resolution, like the Lytro camera, as this is an inherent limitation with all light field cameras.But unlike Lytro, Toshiba says these sensors are small enough to be installed on Smartphones and tablets, and they say they have found a way to make video recording possible too, with a similar refocusing option.
Basically, these microlenses are placed on a focal plane above the sensor, and according to their arrangement, they gather data. This data contains distance information between two objects with each object having its own focal information, and hence enabling the refocusing of an object. We hope this becomes mainstream soon, with higher image sizes of course. Till then, more blurry pictures shall remain.