Nokia Invests in Mobile Camera Firms in Bid to See Like a Bug
April 30, 2013 10:16 AM
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Pelican's lenses also allow for slimmer form factors
may be a fresh face on the market, but it drew lots of attention with its plenoptic imaging technology, which uses software to stitch together input from multiple small lenses into a single cohesive image.
The resulting image not only rivals images taken from larger lenses, it also allows for dynamic adjustments to the focal length. In many ways the multi-lens technology mimics nature -- insects see the world through multiple lenses, but their brain is thought to act as an image processor, stitching these images together into a single scene.
Now Finnish Windows Phone-maker Nokia Oyj. (
) has made a invest in Pelican worth up to $15M USD, hoping that the imaging firm's expertise can help it to beat out Android phonemakers and Apple, Inc. (
) in smartphone imaging.
Nokia is already very focused on imaging; its PureView smartphone -- which will soon receive
a Windows Phone makeover
can take 41 megapixel shots
. Nokia has been among the companies aggressively pushing high dynamic range (HDR) imaging as a means to improve smartphone camera image color.
Shipments of Nokia's smartphones
doubled on a YoY (year-to-year) basis
, but the phonemaker still
only accounts for 3 percent
of total global smartphone sales. Plenoptic imaging could help it win customers who are obsessed with taking the perfect smartphone image.
Describes Bo Ilsoe, a partner at Nokia Growth Partners, "[Plenoptic imaging] is on the cusp of being commercialized and Pelican does software for that. It’s very complicated to do this algorithmically and Pelican is one of the companies that has mastered this technology.
Pelican Imaging's software, combined with Heptagon's lenses could make a unique new kind of smartphone camera. [Image Source: Pelican Imaging]
Nokia Growth investments are typically around $4M to $7M, and are capped at $15M USD. Pelican's other investors include Globespan Capital Partners, Granite Ventures, InterWest Partners, and Invesco Quality Muni Inv Trust (
Nokia's fund also invested in
, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based quantum dots imaging firm who looks to make smartphone sensors with the fresh nanotechnology, and Singapore-based lens-maker
. The Heptagon investment is particularly interesting as it is a startup that makes micro-optics. In other words, you could combine Heptagon's tiny lenses with Pelican's software to potentially make a full plenoptic smartphone imaging sensor.
Such a sensor could not only allow better images and more post-processing, but is also expected to be slimmer than a traditional camera module, allowing for thinner smartphones.
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RE: Why is anyone still interested in Nokia?
4/30/2013 3:25:31 PM
Because unlike many other smartphone manufacturers, who've only got into this market in the last 10 years or so, Nokia have a long history of expertise in the mobile phone market (and thus have tons of patents), and because they are backed by Microsoft, who have a long history of expertise in operating systems (and also have tons of patents).
Microsoft make more money from Android smartphones than they do from smartphones running their own OS, but that can't last. The only way they can stay relevant is to actually have a smartphone operating system that is actually in products that are sold to consumers.
The reason Nokia is still relevant is because they could easily be as competitive as Samsung if they played their cards right. There are two major problems facing Nokia though. Firstly, there are sizable chunk of that market who, when they make their NEXT purchase of a smartphone, are already locked into a particular OS because of some essential "must have" apps, and those apps aren't on Microsoft's OS, but many of the apps on Microsoft's OS (or better ones) are on competing OSes.
Secondly, the fact is smartphone screens are getting larger, so there is a whole range of things that people are going to be using them for that Nokia have absolutely no experience of offering, things like reading their morning newspaper, watching TV programs, or playing one of those science fiction war games.
As I said, Nokia could be (and should have been) as competitive as Samsung and Apple, and that is why they are are a news item, because this is like watching one of those operatic tragedies: we already think we know how it will end, we hope the ending we suspect won't happen, but we need to watch it to the end to find out if the tragic end does eventuate.
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