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Miniature DigiCam For Cell Phones Unveiled

PRINCETON, N.J. — The Sarnoff research and development lab announced it will attempt to market a miniature 16-bit, black and white digital camera, that it originally designed for cloak and dagger operations for the U.S. government, for use in mobile phones.

Sarnoff unveiled the new technology at the Society of Photo-Optical and Instrumentation Engineers Aerosense Conference in Orlando, Fla., last month.

The company initially created the camera as part of a contract for the U.S. government to build miniaturized surveillance cameras for covert operations, but has claimed that the technology has a variety of mass-market applications, including mobile phone imaging and automotive safety.

Measuring 1.2 inches by 1 inch, the camera runs on very low voltage and employs a CMOS sensor for 640 x 480 resolution images. Its Active Pixel Sensor technology delivers more than 100 times the dynamic range of typical cameras, a Sarnoff spokesman claimed. It also captures images faster than current digital technology: it can power up and snap an image in under one-tenth of a second. In addition to still capability, the camera can capture video at 30 frames-per-second. Sarnoff is also said to be working on a “camera-friendly” compression technology that will allow higher resolution still and video images to be captured.

A spokesman for Sarnoff said the camera is currently available in prototype quantities and price and won’t be seen on the mass market until a manufacturer licenses the technology. Sarnoff is currently in discussion with several American and Asian digital and mixed signal chip and camera makers.