Here on Techdirt, we love digital technology. We love how Moore’s Law and its equivalents help drive continual innovation and open up interesting new uses and possibilities. But powerful technology is just a tool, and like any other tool it can be used in good and bad ways. Which brings us to this latest piece of high-tech wizardry: a 500-megapixel cloud-based camera system with built-in AI, developed in China. The English-language Global Times, which is closely aligned with the views of the Chinese government, explains one possible use of such a system:
For example, in a stadium with tens of thousands of people, the camera can shoot a panoramic photo with a clear image of every single human face, the report said.
When integrated with AI, facial recognition, real-time monitoring and cloud computing technology, the camera can detect and identify human faces or other objects based on massive data and instantly find specific targets, according to the report.
The article notes that the camera’s impressive capabilities could be applied to “national defense, military and public security”. Well, yes, now you come to mention it, they probably could. But it would be wrong to think that only China is active in this field. The Japanese company Fujifilm is also working on surveillance systems with extreme specifications:
The SX800, the first to be launched in this initiative, is a long-range surveillance camera with 40x optical zoom to cover the focal length range from 20mm to 800mm. When combined with the digital zoom of up to 1.25x, the camera can reach the focal length equivalent to 1000mm in long-range surveillance. This means it can capture the vehicle registration plate on a car at about 1km away. Fujifilm’s proprietary image stabilization mechanism accurately controls camera shake without any time lag.
It’s easy to imagine how 500-megapixel cameras, or surveillance systems that can zoom in on details a kilometer away, might be abused by governments or companies to carry out new levels of covert surveillance. Moreover, there’s no sign yet of any slowdown in the constantly increasing power of digital technology. It’s only a matter of time before there are 5-gigapixel cameras, or surveillance systems that can zoom in on details ten kilometers away.
As well as producing more powerful systems at the top end of the market, Moore’s Law and its equivalents mean that yesterday’s leading-edge technology often becomes something found routinely on tomorrow’s smartphones. Here’s further evidence of that trend:
Samsung Electronics, a world leader in advanced semiconductor technology, today introduced 108 megapixel (Mp) Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX, the first mobile image sensor in the industry to go beyond 100 million pixels.
The 108-megapixel component was jointly developed with the Chinese company Xiaomi, which said: “We are very pleased that picture resolutions previously available only in a few top-tier DSLR cameras can now be designed into smartphones.” Smartphones with 100-megapixel cameras is an exciting prospect, but also one that is bound to bring with it new problems, as Techdirt will doubtless be reporting in due course.
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