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Crazy new AI camera doesn’t even have a lens – how does it work?

Published Jun 4th, 2023 4:12PM EDT
ai camera that uses location data to capture photos
Image: Bjørn Karmann / Paragraphica

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Bjørn Karmann, a designer based out of the Netherlands, has created an AI camera that can take photos without using a lens. In fact, the camera doesn’t even have a lens at all. The project is called Paragraphica, and according to its website, it offers a way to experience the world around us without limiting us to just visual perception.

While the idea of an AI camera that can take photos without using a lens is exciting, it’s also probably a little baffling. After all, the lens is the part of the camera that makes taking photos possible in the first place. So how does Paragraphica do it? Well, instead of relying on a lens, it utilizes location data and then generates a photo using the camera’s built-in AI.

The AI camera is equipped with three physical dials which let the user control the data and AI parameters. This helps influence the overall appearance of the photo. From there, it displays a real-time description on a screen, which lets you determine what kind of scene it will be capturing.

For example, one of the photos that is showcased on the Paragraphica website cites “A midday photo taken at Cliffordstraat, Amsterdam. The weather is partly cloud and 18 degrees. The date is Wednesday, 24 May, 2023. Near by there is parking and yoga studio.” That information is then put through the AI, which generates a photograph of the area.

You can also see how the AI camera works in a tweet which creator Bjørn Karmann shared on Twitter. In the tweet, he showcases how the different dials control separate options, and then takes a photo of the location, comparing it to what he sees himself. It’s really intriguing and honestly kind of mind-blowing.

But why would someone make an AI camera that doesn’t use a lens? Well, Karmann says it “provides deeper insight into the essence of a moment through the perspective of other intelligences.” As AI continues to evolve, he says it is important for us to understand how AI might see our world, and Paragraphica does that, in a way.

We’ve seen phones like the Honor Magic 5 Pro using AI to capture photos, but this is something different altogether. Additionally, Karmann says this project is simply a passion project, and that he has no plans to make a product people can buy. You can try it out yourself, though, using a virtual camera featured on the project’s website.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.