The camera on our cellular phones is already a technological wonder. Now how about a marble-sized video camera? This camera is so small it can fit into a wristwatch. And it is packed with nifty features and can be used for PC videoconferencing and security cameras.
The inventor of this camera-on-a-chip technology is a Filipino who works at Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs in the United States. For this invention, Marc Loinaz received in 1999 an award given by the Tenth Annual Discover Magazine Awards for Technological Innovation. His invention edged out the Rio PMP300 MP3 player (a portable player for MO3-encoded digital music) in the personal entertainment category.
Marc joined Bell Labs in 1995 and started working on a one-chip digital video camera in 1996. His team came up with a demonstration unit in 1997 and introduced it to the public in 1998.
The camera-on-a-chip approach is based on the same CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) technology found in today’s computer chips. It produced real-time video images that could equal the quality of images produced by camcorders, which rely on a handful of non-CMOS chips.
The camera works by focusing light through a lens on a chip containing 100,000 sensors, each one-fifth the diameter of a human hair. Hardware on the chip processes the image, adjusts the color, and smoothes out imperfections.
Besides requiring less space, CMOS cameras use less power than traditional CCD (charge-coupled devices) cameras. – Bato Balani