Stanford team develops open source ‘Frankencamera’

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Stanford team develops open source 'Frankencamera'

Stanford photo scientists are releasing an open-source digital camera designed to allow programmers to teach cameras new tricks.

If the technology catches on – and it’s a big if – camera performance need not be limited by manufacturers’ preinstalled software. Virtually all the features of the Stanford camera – such as focus, exposure, shutter speed and flash – can be software-controlled by programmers anywhere.

The plan is to make the Frankencamera available at minimal cost to computational photography researchers. Consumers could download applications to open-platform cameras the way Apple apps are downloaded to iPhones today. When the camera’s operating software is made available publicly – perhaps a year from now – users will be able to improve it, along the open-source model of Linux or Firefox.

“Some cameras have software development kits that let you hook up a camera with a USB cable and tell it to set the exposure to this, the shutter speed to that, and take a picture, but that’s not what we’re talking about,” says Stanford professor Marc Levoy. “What we’re talking about is: tell it what to do on the next microsecond in a metering algorithm or an autofocusing algorithm, or fire the flash, focus a little differently and then fire the flash again — things you can’t program a commercial camera to do.”

To create the camera, Levoy and the group cobbled together a number of different parts. The motherboard is a Texas Instruments “system on a chip” running Linux with image and general processors and a small LCD screen. The imaging chip is taken from a Nokia N95 cellphone, and the lenses are off-the-shelf Canon lenses, combined with actuators to give the camera its fine-tuned software control.

Within about a year, Levoy hopes to have to have the funding and the arrangements in place for an outside manufacturer to produce them in quantity, ideally for less than $1,000. Levoy would then provide them at cost to colleagues and students at other universities.

Author