While most cellphone cameras are striving for more megapixels, a company called Pelican Imaging wants to use an array of 25 micro-cameras to not just take pictures, but also to apply HDR and even do 3D depth sensing.
At some point — and we've probably blown way, way past that point — trying to stuff more megapixels into tiny little cellphone cameras becomes at best useless and at worst counterproductive. Pelican Imaging is trying a different route, using multiple tiny lenses to collect light plus sophisticated software to create a single image.
With 25 different cameras taking 25 slightly different images, Pelican's sensor is capable of all kinds of exciting things that traditional cameras aren't. Taking HDR images is a piece of cake. Since multiple cameras offer multiple perspectives, you can extract depth information, which means both 3D images and gesture recognition. And there's even the potential for taking pictures with such a large depth of field that you can refocus them after they've been taken.
The other advantage of Pelican's camera is that it's significantly smaller and slimmer than traditional sensors, meaning that it's destined to show up in the next generation of ultra-slim handsets. It's supposed to be cost effective, too, and Pelican plans to begin licensing its technology to chip manufacturers like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, implying that we could see this technology show up in mobile devices within a generation or two.