Light-field capture for video surveillance?

Whilst light-field (plenoptic) technology is not even a twinkle in most video surveillance manufacturers’ eyes, the future potential for this technology in video surveillance could prove to be a highly valuable asset. In short, this technology enables the end-user to refocus a still image to any point after the image has been captured.
By Gary Wong, Senior Analyst, Video Surveillance and VCA, IMS Research January 25, 2012

IMS research: excellence in market intelligneceWhilst light-field (plenoptic) technology is not even a twinkle in most video surveillance manufacturers’ eyes, the future potential for this technology in video surveillance could prove to be a highly valuable asset. In short, this technology enables the end-user to refocus a still image to any point after the image has been captured.

Unlike conventional photography or videography, light-field cameras (as the name suggests) capture the full field of light. This is achieved via a micro-lens array and resolving software. The camera itself can use a traditional image sensor but the addition of the micro-lens array enables the capture of a view from multiple angles simultaneously. The capture of multiple images at different angles enables an end-user to adjust the focal point of an image post-capture.

Whilst this technology is still in its infancy, 2012 could mark the start of a revolution in how we capture images. A company called Lytro, has commercialised the concept with the imminent release of its first handheld camera. Surprisingly, for a new technology, the cost of admission is not astronomically high, with an initial price of $399 for a 350 picture capacity.

Light-field technology in its current guise is of little interest to the video surveillance industry; the marketplace consists of one commercial vendor, the technology is only currently suitable for capturing still images, the current commercially available resolution is relatively low (roughly 2 megapixels) and the resolving power required to process video would be extremely large. However, future potential for this technology in video surveillance could be immensely compelling, with the key benefit being retroactive focusing.

Whilst I would guess that we are “only” 10 years away from the first application of this technology in video surveillance, light-field technology could well be the industry’s hottest trend in 2022.