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Thursday, 23 July 2009


That's cool. Uber cool.

But for the secong part, why would we, with the general move towards digital displays, want to have a digital permanent print? Why not the almost ubiquitous digital frames?

All the collective geeks and militaries of the world say 'I would like a suit of optical camouflage, thank you very much.'

Photographic cloth is all fine and dandy, Ctein, but the real question here is: Does it have a viewfinder?

There was a pretty interesting interview with one of the authors of that paper on NPR recently: http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200907173

Now *that* is what I call proper science fiction - meaning, both awesome and plausible! :)

No lens, no fun.

And I also would miss the viewfinder.

That means, this would be the end of depth of field debates???
Frightening, uh?

Great idea for the future-- Is this something like the Shroud of Turin. Will it have an ƒ/.9 lens. ISO 50,000.Take movies of granny. I think it will be a long time before a pro photog. starts shooting photos with his T shirt.
This would put all the camera companies out of business and you would get your camera from the "Gap". I'll have an extra large imaging zoom T shirt please.

Oh man this makes my day!

That second link should be

"Which is just what a conventional camera lens and film/sensor does"
- if you had hundreds of thousands of them.

This reminded me of one my favorite SF novels when I was a kid that revolved around "slow glass" , somewhere between a sort of Bose-Einstein condensate and a really high index glass ( like in the 8 digit range ).

Lene Hau, crosstown at Harvard solved the problem of slowing light below walking speed a few years ago. She can beat a beam of light in a race across her lab , how cool is that ?

Anyway it seems that another group in England is working on the same thing, capturing vector information of individual photons
"Exciton Storage in a Nanoscale Aharonov-Bohm Ring with Electric Field Tuning"

Mention of that as well as bringing up "slow glass" at these links



Got to stop by the library and see if they have any of these

Now that is a fun toy.

Does this mean I will now have to strip naked in places that currently do not allow cameras and cellphones (because they *may* have cameras)?

(Shades of RAH's "Puppet Masters")

There's a "Cloak of Invisibility" in there somewhere!

The military has got to be loving this.

I am not interested, until I hear Mike's verdict on the bokeh.

"I am not interested, until I hear Mike's verdict on the bokeh."

It has sort of a "woven" quality....


(Wow, that was lame!)

It will be the final blow to the art of drawing!

w00t for my alma mater. I stuck to math, but those guys in engineering work unbelievably hard. I'm always impressed by this stuff but never really surprised.

Noisy nubbins on the warp and woof, and no viewfinder? PFUI, I'll wait for the iteration 2.

Mike, are you sure you didn't mean Lamé ?

Can I get a phonetic pronunciation of "Ctein", for when the shiny little men come back?

Might this technique have some usefulness in chip lithography? Or writing the masks for chip litho? The current mask writing and "scanners" for chip making are working at the very edge of physics as far as tiny feature size

The easiest path ever to a fiber-based print. Sensor dust will be a bear, though. I doubt it would be machine-washable.

C'mon, folks, there's got to be a great "fabric of space-time" joke in this.

How would the image be stored once its fixed? Or would this really be the equivalent of an 8x10 plate except that its flexible and doesn't need a camera in front of it to create the image?

Is it gonna take electricity ta do all the magic stuff?

I can see pride of ownership going out of the window. How will gear-heads compare bits of fabric?

'That paisley pattern is SO last year!'

Can't you just hear the conversation at the coctail party - "I just LOOOOVE your dress dahling. Is it a Nikon"?

Gives new meaning to "PhotoRag"

Dear Erlik,

Well... it doesn't really have to be a "print." In fact, it would be easier to do if it were a digital frame; the technology for making permanent electronic prints is less advanced than for making thin low-power displays. So, playing it your away, it could still look much like an SX-70 print, except the front side would be a screen and the print could store some number of photographs (storage is cheap and easy!), no doubt determined by marketing. If you want, you can take it one step further and make it wireless-networked (plenty of area in there for an antenna) and whenever the print is within range of a network, it would automatically send off copies of the photos to your home hard drive for safekeeping.

The way-cool part of this is, regardless of details that you're doing away with having to deal with anything resembling technical instrumentality. As photography goes, it gets rather close to technology sufficiently advanced enough to look like magic.


Dear Hugh,

I've had a column on metamaterials in the queue for some time. It'll surface someday.

You're thinking of Bob Shaw; he wrote a series of stories about slow glass starting in the 1960s. Before the development of nonlinear optics, it seemed like a complete physical impossibility. Now I'm not so sure...


Dear Eric & Jho,

The fabric doesn't make a finished photograph, it just collects data like an ordinary digital camera and lens does; a computer turns that data into a photograph. So, yes, it does use some electricity (very little for the fabric, mostly for the computation) and the photos can be stored in the same way they would be stored now.

~ pax \ Ctein (pronounced k'TINE)

[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

If our shirts become cameras I'm going to have to get quite a bit fitter and trimmer to avoid causing distortion. Only people with washboard abs will be able to do architectural photography.

""I just LOOOOVE your dress dahling. Is it a Nikon"?"

-No, it's a Casio. Can't you tell?

-That Pentax is you!

-Sign at locker room entrance: NO PHOTOGRAPHIC CLOTHING ALLOWED

"Does it have a viewfinder?"

Of course not. Viewfinders are sooo 2009. Besides, a finder and permanent press don't mix.

-How do you like the picture I took with this hopsack?

-Photography puts the fun back in corduroy.

Don't forget to tip your waitress, and drive safely. (bada-bing)

Well aren't most people buying cameras as fashion accessories already? Nothin' new here ...



I won't buy a new suit until they offer it Full Frame.

Is it just me, or is having fabric as a sensor/lens/imaging device just part of the equation? To get to what Ctein is describing, you would still need the computing power to make sense of what the fabric is sensing, you would need a display or some sort of method of permanently recording the image produced by the sensor, and you would presumably need a power supply to ... well ... supply the power. I know, I know. Chips get smaller all the time, and they are working on flexible displays, too. But here's the thing:

"It looks kind of like a Polaroid SX 70 print. Hold it up in front of you, grasping it by the lower right corner. An image of the scene the print "back" is facing appears on the side that you're looking at. Squeeze the corner between your thumb and forefinger, and the print freezes the image.

Heck, let's make the lower left corner a zoom control. There's no reason we should be hobbled by a fixed "focal length" in our magic print; it's all in the number crunching. Also, the print doesn't "fix" the image until you squeeze the corner two times rapidly. Then it's permanent. Otherwise, you can reuse the print, until you get a photograph you want to keep."

Is it just me, or does that sound an awful lot like a compact digicam? Are we just excited to have gotten rid of the lens and aperture for the sake of getting rid of the lens and aperture, or is there a benefit here? In terms of size, today's digicams are about as small as you would want to go and still have them be usable. The only thing this would potentially offer is physical flexibility and perhaps weight savings.

Can I stand back up again?

Hmmmm....so what would happen if you took a sheet of that stuff and put it behind a lens in place of the film/sensor? I know you don't need the lens, but what would it record?

Would this thing collect enough info for a hologram of sorts? After all, the two ends of the "sheet" see things from two different perspectives, there ought to be 3-d data in there.

It's cool, but like most lensless imagers general applications are limited by the need for coherent illumination. Even if you can reduce the power requirements to eye-safe levels, you will still need an illuminator of some sort.

You could weave in some solar cell fibers to take care of power needs. Also it could be an output device think real wallpaper.

Maybe we should worry about people accidentally wearing these clothes inside out?

Nothing like starting the day with a paradigm shift. Good thing I had breakfast first.

New instructions for Baby Snookums from doting Grandpa:

1. "Hold Still While I Unroll My Camera"

2. "Look at the shirt, Snookums, look at the shirt"

How thick is this stuff? I sure hope it could work with a lens as well as without. Could it be made into something like film that would breath new life into all those wonderful old film cameras that have been relegated to paperweights and objet d'arte? The possibilities are thrilling -- especially if they could make it in sizes for a 4x5.

Dear Struan,

You're right, in this experiment! I've now read the original paper and I rather drastically overengineered my "reverse engineering" of what they are doing. They're not doing anything as sophisticated as short scale phase detection like I talked about; they're just making really, really small sensors that pick up on angles and wavelengths through normal quadrature detection, electrode shadowing, and absorption effects... and they're using coherent light for their proof of concept demonstration. The scheme I imagined was way more sophisticated (and currently not demonstrated!). Theirs does require coherent illumination; mine wouldn't. But mine is currently purely in the realm of the hypothetical rather than the experimentally demonstrated.

Given who's backing the work, it's clear that they ultimately do want to move to real-world incoherent light imaging. But having already guessed wrong once, I'm not going to hazard a second guess as to the approach they're taking.


Dear Imnotme,

As point-and-shoot cameras are currently designed, they're serving a different purpose from my hypothetical print. Cameras don't make photographs; they collect the information (via a sensor or in film) from which photographs are made. Here, the "print" is the whole package. That's possibly a big "so what" for you, but for many people it's as profound a difference as the difference between conventional photography and Polaroid photography (which may also have been a "so what" for you).

Some people like tools and gadgets. Some people just want the photographs. This is as close as you can get to just getting the photographs and making instrumentality invisible.

This is also 10 years away! We're talking about a primitive laboratory experiment. In 10 years the computing power needed for one of these, along with the battery that runs it, nestles nicely in that little pouch at the bottom of the SX 70 print.


Dear Kevin,

Off the top of my head, I don't see a way to collect the information you want, but that doesn't mean I'm not missing a trick.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Ctein,

there's really no need to spend 30 bucks to buy you 48 hour viewing time of the journal Nano Letters. All you have to do is to send an email to the corresponding author requesting a reprint. It's commonplace within the scientific community that the corresponding author of any scientific publication will distribute PDF reprints for free. Greetings.

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