So much for the megapixels war. Researchers at the Duke University Imaging and Spectroscopy Program have built a supercamera that can take gigapixel pictures. That’s 1,000 megapixels. reports on the new gigapixel camera’s technology, which researchers say could have military, commercial and civilian applications.

The gigapixel camera uses 98 identical microcameras in unison, each armed with its own set of optics and a 14-megapixel sensor. These microcameras, in turn, all peer through a single large spherical lens to collectively see the scene the system aims to capture. Since the optics of the microcameras are small, they are relatively easy and cheap to fabricate. A specially designed electronic processing unit stitches together all the partial images each micro camera takes into a giant, one-gigapixel image.

“In the near-term, gigapixel cameras will be used for wide-area security, large-scale event capture — for example, sport events and concerts — and wide-area multiple-user scene surveillance — for example, wildlife refuges, natural wonders, tourist attractions,” said researcher David Brady, an imaging researcher at Duke University in Durham, N.C. “As an example, a gigapixel camera mounted over the Grand Canyon or Times Square will enable arbitrarily large numbers of users to simultaneously log on and explore the scene via telepresence with much greater resolution than they could if they were physically present.”

A handheld gigapixel camera may one day be possible.