What’s the Future of Digital Photography?

November 3, 2013

10:00 am

Since the technique was first pioneered around 200 years ago, photography has developed to a state where it is almost unrecognizable. The ubiquity of cameras in our everyday life has created a disposable culture (even if the disposable camera is nowhere to be seen) and for many people, every waking moment of their lives needs to be documented.

But we are social creatures. We like to talk and share things, and fortunately camera manufacturers know this. All the major camera manufacturers have produced Wi-Fi capable cameras, reducing the time it takes for you to get your photo online. The market is currently crammed full of social media integration cameras and “smart” digital cameras (a smartphone-camera hybrid).

We know that photography at the present is exciting, but what of the future? There are already some very interesting trends emerging, and this article will explore what possibilities we may have in the years to come.

1. Google Glass


Developed in Google’s secretive GoogleX labs at their headquarters in Mountain View, California, Google Glass has already taken the Internet by storm and has generated the kind of controversy that Google products are having the habit of developing. For example, even though this product hasn’t been properly released yet, it’s already illegal in Britain to drive whilst wearing it. Although I’ve not been fortunate enough to get my hands on a pair, I imagine it’s the closest I’ll get to being in Minority Report in my lifetime. For the uninitiated, Google Glass is a headset, masquerading as a pair of glasses, that displays information like a smartphone, operated by simple voice commands. It can take photos and record video, has 16gb of on-board memory, and runs Android. Google is such a heavy hitter in the industry that I imagine we won’t be waiting long before wearable technology is pretty common. Glass is expected to launch sometime in 2014.

Image Source: Google

2. Cybernetic Implants

implantTaking wearable technology one step further is Canadian Rob Spence. The one-eyed filmmaker decided to ditch his prosthetic eye for a video camera in 2009, allowing the world to see what he sees. It’s not difficult for a newspaper like The Sun to imagine that there’s a company offering this service to the general public, as they reported recently. The only problem with The Sun’s piece is that there isn’t. Sarif Industries is a fictional company from the game Deus Ex, which (rather confusingly) Spence has done some publicity work for. Even though The Sun was fooled, it’s not hard to imagine this actually becoming reality in a few generations’ time. Of course, there would be ethical and medical hurdles to overcome, but I’d bet there are plenty of people willing to have the Google Glass experience without having to wear silly-looking glasses.

Image Source: Twitter

3. 3-Sweep

3sweepI honestly thought this video demonstrating 3-Sweep was a hoax when I first saw it. This software allows you to manipulate flat objects in a picture, rotate them, resize them, and add to them, as if they were 3D modeled. It’s effectively the big brother of Photoshop’s magnetic lasso. The software fills in the blanks for you. Researchers at a Tel Aviv university have combined humans’ natural perception with complex computer algorithms to make a piece of software that is apparently easy for users of any skill level to pick up. It hurts my brain just to think about it. Just when you thought Photoshop couldn’t be improved, this allows for a whole new wave of image editing techniques. You probably won’t have to wait long to get your hands on this either. It’ll make its debut at SISGRAPH Asia in November, and with any luck, the source code should be released soon after.

Image Souce: Hackaday

4. Salt-Sized Cameras

Salt CameraIn 2011, a team of German engineers developed a digital camera the size of a grain of salt. Obviously, the implications for these cameras are exciting as they are terrifying, involving sectors as wide-ranging as medicine and espionage. You’re not going to find professional photographers using them (there’s not even any way to change the aperture or shutter speed. Pathetic!) but they’re more than capable of providing sufficient imagery to doctors, according to Michael Töpper, the project manager at Fraunhofer Institute. What’s really amazing about these tiny cameras is that they’re disposable and are made in batches of 25,000 at a time. This drastically reduces the cost of each camera when compared to other medical cameras, and in turn should hopefully drive down the cost of healthcare around the world. As Töpper himself says: “Just think about the camera in the phone: 10 years ago everybody was laughing. ‘Who needs a camera in a phone?'”

Image Source: Fraunhofer

5. Smell Cameras

smellcameraIt’s well established that certain smells bring back certain memories in us. Chlorine can bring up visions of summers at the pool, or orchids can evoke sad memories of funerals, salt of the seaside, and so on. So how hard would it be for a camera to capture the smells in the air when you take a picture? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Although not strictly a visual “camera,” designer Amy Radcliffe’s latest project works in much the same way, capturing scent molecules and playing them back when needed, rather than exposing light onto a piece of film and then being shoved in a shoebox. It’s easy to see how the two can be combined. The project, dubbed “Madeline” (named after Marcel Proust’s story of a cake-based memory) has been shortlisted for a Nova Award. We all know someone with an interesting personal odor. Portraits using Madeline would certainly be interesting.

Image Source: Amy Radcliffe

What was your favorite period from photography’s past? Where do you think we will end up? Write in the comment box below.


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Daniel Smith is an aspiring Tech and Gaming writer, living in Gateshead. He can be reached through