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Computational Optical Measurement and Display: Case Studies in Plenoptic Imaging and Projection

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Ihrke, I. (2012). Computational Optical Measurement and Display: Case Studies in Plenoptic Imaging and Projection. Habilitation Thesis, Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux.

Advances in imaging technology have to a large extent shaped scientific progress in the last 200 years. While progress in imaging technology originated in, and forced the development of, the field of optics, the design paradigm for optical instruments has always placed the human observer at the center of its efforts. With the advent of electronic computation in the second half of the 20th century, optical design could be elevated to a new level by exploiting computer-aided design and automated optimization procedures. However, only in recent years have computers become so powerful, and at the same time so small and inexpensive, that imaging technology, storage and transmission have become completely digitized. This move has not yet reached its full potential since the human observer is still considered the target of optimization, whereas in fact, today's primary observers are computers. It is this insight that enables an entirely new approach to optics and measurement instrumentation. Images no longer have to mimic what the human brain is accustomed to interpret as an image of the world, i.e. integrals over ray bundles of a restricted subset of the electro-magnetic spectrum. Instead, sensing mechanisms can be designed that re-distribute directional, spatial, temporal and wavelength information to essentially agnostic sensor elements serving as simple photon collectors. The questions of how such redistribution can be arranged for, which performance characteristics are to be expected of such devices, and how these novel sensing means can be used for measurement purposes form the basis and contents of this thesis. In particular examples, investigations into these larger questions are explored in detail. Through these studies we arrive at a larger picture of the current state of affairs: We have glimpsed at the exciting possibilities of computational optical imaging, however, we have seen a mountain of formidable size and difficulty, the ascend of which will require significant effort. This is how the subtitle of this thesis is to be understood.