We're not sure where this one is going, but a very interesting optical development may eventually result in astounding 3D scanning technology. A group from Stanford University has developed a unique optical camera concept. While a typical camera may have a 3MB pixel digital sensor, they want to modify it to contain a separate lens over top each 16x16 pixel array within the sensor.
What the heck does that mean? A lot: for one thing, potentially each image taken could have all portions in focus. As well, by comparing the difference in image between the mini-lenses and a standard lens over the entire array, 3D structure information could be derived - perhaps eventually resulting in a pocket 3D scanner!
A variety of other benefits could result, not the least of which would be the reduction in importance of the camera's main lens - currently the most expensive portion of a camera.
We're hoping this one works out!