Most camera designers seek to maximize spatial resolution and signal-to-noise (SNR). A wealth of information in the optical domain, however, is lost under those constraints. Specialty cameras exist to capture other types of information, but are not normally able to provide high SNR imagery at high spatial resolution from a single focal plane, and are used infrequently due to demands of additional camera systems. Today’s imaging systems primarily perform a single or limited set of measurements due, in part, to the underlying readout integrated circuits (ROICs), which sample the signal of interest and transfer the values off of the chip. Typically, ROICs are designed for a specific mode of operation, and, in essence, are application specific integrated circuits (ASICs).
The Reconfigurable Imaging (ReImagine) program seeks to demonstrate that a software-reconfigurable imaging system is capable of enabling revolutionary capabilities. The goals of the program are to create a new approach to application development that is more similar to field programmable gate array (FPGA)-based design than ASIC design, and develop the underlying theory and algorithms that learn to collect the most valuable information when the sensor can be configured for a variety of measurements. The ReImagine program aims to demonstrate that a single, reconfigurable ROIC architecture can accommodate multiple modes of imaging operations that may be defined after a chip has been designed.
The ReImagine program is exploring the use of 3-D integration, which makes it possible to customize the sensor to interface with virtually any type of imaging sensor (e.g. photodiode, photoconductor, avalanche photodiode, or bolometer) and optimize it for any spectral band (e.g. ultraviolet (UV) through very long-wave infrared (VLWIR)). More importantly, this approach makes it possible to adapt the mode of operation either through manual user control, through preset routines that can change many times per second, or in response to context derived from the scene being observed. For example, a single imager could present simultaneous regions of interest (ROIs) that can run at high resolution (i.e. foveated imaging), or at high frame rate.
ReImagine ROICs will also demonstrate that efficient computation within an ROI can enable real-time analysis on much more complex scenes than traditional systems. The program will build on this architecture to develop a concept of operation, application requirements, modes of operation, and needed algorithms. The ReImagine ROICs will enable delivery of more actionable information to the warfighter than has ever been possible from a single imaging sensor.
In addition to multiple passive imaging functions, the ability to incorporate range detection into a high- resolution, low noise imaging system offers a potential revolutionary capability. Light detection and ranging (LIDAR) systems today are predominantly scanning devices that contain large moving components and do not provide high quality context imagery. Two dimensional imaging LIDAR systems have been demonstrated and are able to acquire 3-D imagery in framing or asynchronous modes. Both direct detect and coherent receiver arrays have been demonstrated, each with distinct advantages for different applications. However, in all cases, high data rates limit the spatial resolution of the sensor, and the demonstration of passive imaging and active LIDAR modes in a large (> 1 MPixel) array has not been demonstrated. A ReImagine dual-mode sensor would provide the ability to collect high data rate LIDAR measurements within a configurable ROI, while continuing to measure passive context imagery.
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