camera unobscura

A while ago I asked a market analyst if he could identify the magic ingredient that changed camera phones from a niche technology into ubiquitous consumables, assuming he’d say it happened when engineers worked out how to get enough megapixels into the things to make the photographs actually worth looking at.

His answer was Facebook. That and consumer willingness to embrace data plans that let people successfully send pictures without going bankrupt or expiring from boredom while they were about it.

This fact came up while researching an article on camera phone optics for The Optical Society. Another nugget was that one of the foremost developers of a particular technology that seemed tailor-made to suit the camera phone sector, a company I’ve been writing about in one way or another for years, had withdrawn from the fray while I wasn’t looking, brought low by a licensing strategy that looked like exactly the right idea on paper.

Point being: becoming ubiquitous is a bruising business. But it certainly pushes technology forwards.

My feature about some of the optics technology built into camera phones is the cover story of the February issue of the OSA’s Optics and Photonics News, and is also currently an open-access article on their web site.