£1m Queen Elizabeth Prize: Digital camera tech lauded

BBC News

February 1, 2017

By Pallab Ghosh

The inventors of digital cameras have won the highest international engineering prize.

This year's £1m Queen Elizabeth Prize recognises the development of the technologies that turn light into digital signals.

The Royal Academy of Engineering judging panel said the inventors' work had "revolutionised" the world.

Although one of the winners told the BBC he was "frustrated" to see people taking selfies with his invention.

The award is inspired by and modelled on the Nobel Prizes for science.

This year it is shared by British-born Dr Michael Tompsett, Prof Nobukazu Teranishi from Japan, and Prof Eric Fossum and George Smith from the US.

Their engineering achievements span three decades and have helped to transform medical treatments, science and entertainment. Without their work Skyping, selfies, computer games and streamed digital films would not be possible.

The imaging technologies have also helped capture stunning views of planets and distant stars and galaxies. ...

... The baton was then passed to Prof Fossum, who in the 1990s was working with the US space agency's Jet Propulsion Lab. His aim was to miniaturise digital cameras so the space agency could reduce the payload of its spacecraft. He succeeded and his CMOS device, also known as "camera on a chip" technology, has now become the basis of modern digital cameras.

A study of industry data by Prof Fossum suggests that 100 digital cameras are made every second and a billion photos are uploaded each day.

"I had no idea of the impact it would have," he told BBC News. "I thought it would be useful for many things, but the impact is just amazing an it astonishes me on a daily basis."

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