Original BBC Article (w/video)
Prof. Miles Padgett and his team of scientists at Glasgow University's School of in Scotland have created a technology which can generate a 3D image using just four stand-alone pixels by capturing light frequency waves beyond what the human eye can see.
This technique, which involves taking a 2D image using four single-pixel detectors (which apparently only cost a few British pounds to make) that detect a "crossword" type pattern of light from a projector then use a software technique called "shape from shade" to render it in 3D seems to still be in the very early stages of development, but researchers are hoping that this technology can be used in the focus for things like detecting oil underground, or finding tumors - something that current sensor technology struggles to allow for due to the need for detailed calibration with multi-megapixel systems and the lack of ability to capture these "hidden" frequencies.
While the people developing this method are looking at it from scientific/engineering perspective, as a commercial photographer I can't help but wonder what applications this could have in the more creative, "traditional" sense of image capturing. The fact that the detectors can capture frequencies beyond human vision (and therefore even further beyond the sensors in our cameras) makes me wonder if in the future this can lead to an alternative to "HDR" as a tool to show details in shadows and highlights which I could see benefiting people like real estate and product photographers. For this to happen though, I imagine someone would need to develop a software to somehow overlay the 3D rendering with a photo from a normal camera, as I can't imagine how four pixels could capture any reasonable level of color data. Of course this is all speculation and this could easily be among the countless other "cool innovations" that we never see or hear about again, only time will tell.
What other purposes can our readers think of for a technology like this, if any? Let me know in the comments!