research lab begins testing modular imaging system that rearranges into different cameras
all images courtesy of columbia engineering





at columbia university’s engineering department, computer science professor shree nayar, makoto odamaki from ricoh, have developed ‘cambits’ – a modular imaging system that lets users create a wide range of cameras. the platform is compromised of a set of colorful plastic blocks – sensors, light sources, actuators, lenses and optical attachments. these building blocks can be easily put together to build cameras that can create panoramic, kaleidoscopic and even microscopic images. 


video courtesy of columbia engineering



‘we wanted to redefine what we mean by a camera,’ explains profressor shree nayar. ‘traditional cameras are really like black boxes that take one type of image. we wanted to rethink the instrument, to come up with a hardware and software system that is modular, reconfigurable, and able to capture all kinds of images. we see cambits as a wonderful way to unleash the creativity in all of us.’

columbia-engineering-cambits-designboom-02multiple ‘cambit’ configurations 




the exterior mold of the blocks were 3D-printed, and keep attached using magnets. when together, they are electrically connected by spring-loaded pins where they power, host data and control signals. each ‘cambit’ block has an identification tag and when a set are put together, the host computer recognizes the current configuration and provides a visual menu of options for what the user might want to do. 

columbia-engineering-cambits-designboom-03the different blocks combined at variances in lens formats and lighting




‘using our novel architecture, we were able to configure a wide range of cameras,’ adds makoto odamaki. ‘there are so many exciting advances in computational photography these days. we hope this reconfigurable system will open the door to new avenues of creativity, bringing new dimensions to an art form we all enjoy.’ the team hope to partner with a manufacturer to bring their concept to the public. 

columbia-engineering-cambits-designboom-04the kaleidoscopic setupcolumbia-engineering-cambits-designboom-05two attached lenses offer depth perception optionscolumbia-engineering-cambits-designboom-06the whole platform has 19 different blocks