New Duke Kunshan lab to develop the next generation of gigapixel cameras

January 25, 2017

A new computational imaging research lab was unveiled by Duke Kunshan University in collaboration with local partners in the city of Kunshan. The lab, led by a highly respected professor from Duke University and Duke Kunshan University, will be dedicated to the development and commercialization of gigapixel cameras at affordable cost.

The lab will focus its research and development efforts to produce the next generation of photography tools that will be able to capture images in ultra-high definition by synchronizing small cameras into one single device.

 “We believe this technology will be revolutionary in many fields such as public safety, virtual reality, robotics, drone, online TV and mobile devices,” said David Brady, who will head the lab as professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke Kunshan and Fitzpatrick Professor of Electric Engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

 “Over the past few years we have done a lot of research on array cameras and computational imaging at Duke, where we have developed a prototype camera that can capture 3 gigapixel (3,000 megapixels) of data,” Brady added.

 “The challenge, however, is that it is too big and too expensive,” Brady said at the lab based at the Kunshan Industrial Technology Research Institute (KSITRI). “With this newly established lab and help from our local partners, we will not only develop the next generation of gigapixel cameras with the world’s highest performance but also make them much more compact at lower cost.”

 "We are very pleased to help Prof. Brady and his team leveraging Kunshan’s technological and commercial advantages to translate his innovative research to industrial production,” said Denis Simon, executive vice chancellor at Duke Kunshan.  “This is the kind of academic entrepreneurship that we aim to cultivate through Duke Kunshan’s cross-border research and incubation platform. Prof. Brady’s gigapixel camera is the first one but not the last one that will come out of the university’s efforts to use its research contributions to support the city and beyond.” 

Brady and his research team have brought the project’s application development to the City of Kunshan, where advanced manufacturing is booming.  

“There are a lot of optical companies in Kunshan that develop camera technology, and our main idea is to use arrays of simple cameras to produce high-performance cameras,” said Brady. “Kunshan is a perfect place for that because of the strong support from Duke Kunshan University, the local government and other camera companies.”

Jin Min, a vice mayor of the city, said the new lab is expected to create a completely new industrial chain, which will in turn contribute to the city’s overall growth in advanced manufacturing and new emerging industries.

Applications in various fields will gradually become reality, now that Brady and the lab are receiving even more support from two partners. KSITRI, a high-tech incubation base in Kunshan, will provide research space and operational funding. Aqueti, the third partner and a high-tech company, will primarily take responsibility for product commercialization. A total of 30 million RMB from Shanghai JiuYou Fund also has been invested in the lab, which now has business presence not only in Kunshan, but also Shanghai, Chengdu, Xiamen, Shenzhen, Beijing, Wuhan and the US. Additionally, Brady continues to lead his team working with top Chinese universities and other American and European institutions. Wuhan University, Duke Kunshan’s academic partner in China, is also involved in collaborating with the new lab in research. 

“This project is all about the sustained role of Duke Kunshan as a catalyst for attracting high end global talent to help Kunshan spearhead its efforts to develop a more competitive, knowledge driven economy,” added Simon. “Working closely with the Kunshan government and local industry, Duke Kunshan hopes to foster more university-industry research collaboration while at the same time strengthening the foundations for expanded U.S.-China cooperation in science and technology."

Apart from his work with the lab, Brady teaches several courses at Duke Kunshan, including computational photography and the frontiers of 21st century physics. He is also working with colleagues to build a new Institute of Applied Physical Sciences and Engineering (iAPSE) at Duke Kunshan University. iAPSE, which connects Duke Kunshan and Duke and facilitates both universities to jointly pursue international education, interdisciplinary research, and technology transfer, is expected to initiate, drive and lead the ‘Eastern Silicon Valley’ with high-tech industry in Kunshan and China at large.