We've been bearing witness to megapixel wars in consumer camera technology for years now as compact camera sensors have steadily been gaining more pixels than are arguably good for them. Pixel counts of 14 and 16 million for a point-and-shoot camera are increasingly common. Outside of that realm, engineers at Duke University are envisioning the benefits of more pixels in the fields of science and surveillance - many, many more pixels. Nature reports that a 1000 megapixel (gigapixel) camera has been developed, with plans to expand up to 50 gigapixels.
Rather than creating one massive sensor with an even more massive lens attached, the gigapixel camera design incorporates an array of many microcameras sharing space behind a single spherical lens. One of the challenges that the Duke team faces is processing all of the data produced by the system. Currently, the gigapixel camera creates 10GB of data every second when capturing 10 frames per second.
Though not headed for consumers anytime soon, the gigapixel concept could see use in surveillance systems. Wildlife researchers may also benefit from the extreme resolution of gigapixel images. For now, the rest of us will just have to make due with 16 megapixels.