Disappearing Cameras

Sunday , 28, July 2019

The proliferation of cameras in the modern world is no fad, it continues unabated. Here is an image (shown below) from a 2016 patent application from Sony Corporation for a digital camera built into a contact lens. Notice that it has wireless communications capability and a storage unit to offload images and upgrade the software and firmware.

When the wearer blinks in a controlled manner the contents of the frame buffer are saved to disk. It’s not hard to imagine devices coming to market in the next few years that have additonal abilities like zoom lenses, near infrared and enough storage and software to record video as well.

Not only are the form factors changing in dramatic ways, but the amount of information contained in a photograph continues to increase. Consumer grade cameras just get more robust sensors and chipsets, along with better quality software to process and store images.

Off-the-shelf cameras with the latest Qualcomm chipset can process 192 MegaPixel images. This is vastly more resolution than you actually need to post a photograph of your lunch on a social media site, but this level of detail allows a photograph to contain clear data about people miles away.

Because of the vanishing footprint of cameras, and the incredible resolution in them, we cannot necessarily see the cameras that take our picture. We can no longer can tell that we’re being photographed. Even if we live in a house without close neighbors, a nearby drone can find an angle in our window and record detailed glimpses into our private lives. We’re approaching the time when amazingly detailed photographs of people and objects on Earth will be routinely taken from satellites.

This capacity is made more significant by marrying the imaging technology with facial recognition systems and gait analysis software. We’re not far away from having the Orwellian technology to visually track each person on Earth in real time. The biometric identification systems are increasingly sophisticated, and we’ll surely have many posts in future to consider them in greater detail.

This post is a followup to a series of posts beginning with Cameras, Photos and People. In a related future post we’ll take a closer look at working with EXIF data and how this data is added or removed by various software and social media sites.