Researchers at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria have developed a new kind of image sensor that could one day revolutionize the form factor of digital cameras. Instead of a postage stamp-sized digital eye, the sensor is a flat, flexible, transparent plastic sheet that could be invisibly overlayed on displays, or just used as is.
But how does it work? The sensor is made from a polymer film known as a luminescent concentrator which is embedded with countless tiny fluorescent particles. When light hits these particles most of it passes right on through, making it transparent. But some of the light is scattered throughout the film itself, where an array of optical sensors located around its perimeter detects it. And by measuring the relative brightness of this light, the researchers were able to determine where the light entered the film in the first place.
The low-res black and white images produced by the prototypes are downright terrible, even compared to the images a crappy camera phone. But by layering these films the researchers believe they can increase the resolution, and even capture color images with an RGB approach. So one day instead of having to perch your Kinect sensor on top of your TV, it might already come with a thin film over the display that could detect your every movement.