The 3GSM World Congress is going on right now in Barcelona, Spain. This trade show covers pretty much everything that has to do with mobile technology, including camera phones. While we don't typically cover mobile phones (or their cameras), there is a lot of innovation going on to make these embedded cameras more capable, with high resolution sensors, novel compact lenses, or other electronics to make the shots from camera phones better.
One press release from 3GSM that caught my eye this morning was something that sounded pretty innovative. Omnivision introduced a technology, which they call TrueFocus. The 3 megapixel TrueFocus camera that they're exhibiting doesn't require any time to focus since it doesn't use a typical lens mechanism to focus the image. It uses a technique, which they call WaveFront Coding, to provide an image that is always in focus with a much greater depth of field than a typical lens system.
WaveFront Coding first "encodes" the light entering the lens to create an intermediate, unfocused image on the camera sensor. Using digital processing, this intermediate image is then decoded to create an image in which the subject is always in focus, no matter where it is in the cameras's field of view. I assume that since the entire image is "out of focus" by the same amount, that the signal processing knows what it has to do to make a focused image.
Since the TrueFocus system doesn't use the typical moving parts found in a standard focusing system, it is also less prone to damage from dropping your phone.
In addition to the mobile phone market, Omnivision believes that TrueFocus technology can be applied to advanced medical imaging applications, automotive vision and detection systems, homeland security and military applications. This technology will also be available to the digital still camera market.