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Toshiba is ready to put a Lytro-like camera in your smartphone

Toshiba is ready to put a Lytro-like camera in your smartphone

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Toshiba has announced a new camera module that enables you to refocus your smartphone photos. Since Lytro released its light field camera two years ago, many companies, including most recently Nokia, have attempted to emulate its refocusing magic using multiple shots and software tricks. Toshiba's new module, intended for use in smartphones and tablets, uses unique hardware to enable refocusing.

The module, unceremoniously known as the TCM9518MD, consists of two 5-megapixel sensors and a dedicated processing chip that simultaneously capture an image and depth data. That combination, Toshiba says, will allow users to capture photos that aren't possible with regular lenses. You could, for example, take a macro shot and keep the background in focus, change the focus of a shot, or blur the background around your chosen subject after shooting. It's a similar technique to one used by Pelican Imaging, a company reportedly courted by Nokia last year.

Expect to see it in consumer devices soon

Toshiba actually announced it was developing a refocusing camera based on an entirely different principle back in 2012, but apparently abandoned the idea in favor of a simpler technique. The new module is sampling now, meaning manufacturers will be able to order small quantities to test them out for future devices. If it's as good as Toshiba proclaims, you can expect it to make its debut in consumer devices within the next year or so. The company says it's demoing the new technology at CES this week, so we'll have the opportunity to put Toshiba's claims to the test soon enough.