It sounds like the new 50 gigapixel camera from engineers at Duke University and the University of Arizona was a simple, intuitive, Lego-inspired idea: stack 98 cameras on top of each other to make one big camera. That’s the main idea, anyway. What’s tough is taking the information from those 98 flashes and organizing it without the camera going up in smoke. That’s why it uses about 3 percent of its hardware to do actual camera stuff, while the rest of it goes to wiring that takes the info and gets it to make sense.
It’s a lot of wiring, too; the prototype is two-and-half feet square and 20 inches deep. Each camera takes a tiny, crisp photo that overlaps with the others to create a high-resolution mosaic–enough to see someone blowing their nose from blocks away, even if the photographer can’t notice the detail at first glance.
So, you ask, when am I getting a 50 gigapixel smartphone? Not for a while–a really long while. The wires piecing together that photo are going to have to be condensed a lot before they fit in your pocket, or even something comfortable to hold in your hands.