Researchers develop HD streaming video camera that uses 1/10,000th current power requirements

Apr 24, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Researchers develop HD streaming video camera that uses 1/10,000th current power requirements

Apr 24, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Wearable camera technology might seem like a gimmick, especially after the failure of Google Glass. But, every day, we hear of new wearable camera devices being released. So, while some may be gimmicks, it looks like the ideas a whole is here to stay. The one issue that current cameras have had, though, is that they’re kind of power hungry.

Researchers at the University of Washington have now developed a new HD streaming camera that soon may require no batteries at all. The jobs of those power hungry components have been shifted out of the camera and into the receiving device, like a smartphone or tablet. This new HD streaming system requires 1/1,000th to 1/10,000th the power of current streaming technology, which it just plucks out of the air.

YouTube video

Normally, with a streaming camera system, the camera sees the analogue world, and then converts it into a digital signal. This digital signal is then transmitted digitally to a receiver. The new system takes the whole digital system out of the equation, putting the load onto the receiving devices, like smartphones and tablets.

If I understand correctly, and it’s entirely possible that I’m not. The new system essentially harvests radio waves that are already bouncing around through the air to power the camera. Then this analogue data is transmitted to the receiving device where it’s processed. At least, that’s the plan. Right now it does still use a small battery to support continuous operation, but the next step is to make it completely battery-free.

This new tech could theoretically allow for all kinds of new streaming cameras that don’t require any power source whatsoever. Pet monitors, home security, or perhaps attaching cameras to all of the players and officials in a football match to view the perspective from any of them while the game’s still being played.

It’s a while off that kind of tech yet, though. At the moment the current prototype can stream 720p HD videos at up to 10 frames per second to something like a laptop with a range of about 14ft (4m). That’s not very powerful just yet, so I wouldn’t expect it to be sending signals many yards down a football field, especially when there’s potentially dozens of other cameras to compete with. But it does hold some great possibilities for the future.

Looking at the photos right now, it’s a bit unwieldy for a pair of glasses, but I’m sure as it gets more developed it’ll scale down nicely.

It’s a great start to a very interesting piece of camera tech that has a lot of future potential. It will be very interesting to see where it’s eventually applied.

You can read more about it on the University of Washington website, and see the complete paper on the technology here.

[via DPReview / Feature image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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