Engineering 101

The Role Government Plays in Tech Development

By Girish Mhatre

New camera systems are usually the focus of any iPhone launch. And, while 5G capability may have made the headlines at last week’s iPhone 12 debut, Apple did not disappoint on the camera front: A new, larger image sensor combined with cleverer image-processing software helps in low-light situations, corrects distortions and enables many other features.

A bit of history: The CMOS active pixel sensor (the “camera chip” that enables all modern digital photography) was first developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), back in 1993 by an engineer named Eric Fossum. Later, Fossum left JPL to found Photobit Corporation to commercialize the technology. Even later, as active pixel technology began to make its way into a variety of applications (web cams, high speed and motion capture cameras, digital radiography, endoscopy (pill) cameras and digital single lens reflex cameras and camera-phones), the market opportunity it created attracted a host of image sensor startups in the United States…

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