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Publication numberUS20020167599 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/851,102
Publication dateNov 14, 2002
Filing dateMay 8, 2001
Priority dateMay 8, 2001
Also published asUS7280137, US20030133023
Publication number09851102, 851102, US 2002/0167599 A1, US 2002/167599 A1, US 20020167599 A1, US 20020167599A1, US 2002167599 A1, US 2002167599A1, US-A1-20020167599, US-A1-2002167599, US2002/0167599A1, US2002/167599A1, US20020167599 A1, US20020167599A1, US2002167599 A1, US2002167599A1
InventorsFrank Carau
Original AssigneeCarau Frank P.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Reusable camera
US 20020167599 A1
Abstract
A reusable camera is provided. The camera comprises an image processing unit configured to capture images and a memory coupled to the image processing unit. The memory is configured to store a plurality of images to be captured by the image processing unit.
Images(3)
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Claims(20)
What is claimed is:
1. A reusable camera comprising:
an image processing unit configured to capture images; and
a Permanent Inexpensive Removable Memory (PIRM) coupled to the image processing unit, the memory being configured to store a plurality of images to be captured by the image processing unit.
2. The camera of claim 1, wherein the camera comprises a digital camera.
3. The camera of claim 1, wherein the PIRM is built into the camera.
4. The camera of claim 1, wherein the PIRM is removable from the camera.
5. The camera of claim 1, wherein the PIRM comprises a non-volatile memory.
6. The camera of claim 1, wherein the PIRM is configured to store over a hundred images.
7. The camera of claim 1, wherein the PIRM is not configured to overwrite an image, which is currently being stored in a section of the PIRM, with a new image.
8. The camera of claim 1, wherein the PIRM is configured to overwrite an image, which is currently being stored in a section of the PIR, with a new image.
9. The camera of claim 1, wherein the image processing unit encodes image data before storing the image data in the PIRM.
10. The camera of claim 1, wherein the image processing unit is configured to store a predetermined number of images in the PIRM.
11. The camera of claim 10, further comprising a security system to prevent users from changing the pre-determined number.
12. The camera of claim 10, wherein the image processing unit is configurable by an external system to store more than the pre-determined number of images in the PIRM.
13. The camera of claim 1, further comprising a display coupled to the PIRM, the display being configured to display images stored in the PIRM.
14. The camera of claim 1, wherein the image processing unit is configured to allow a user to invalidate a pre-determined number of images stored in the PIRM.
15. The camera of claim 1, wherein the image processing unit is configured to allow a user to select a pre-determined number of images stored in the PIM to be retrieved from the PIRM.
16. A reusable camera comprising:
an image processing unit configured to capture images; and
a built-in, non-volatile memory coupled to the image processing unit, the memory being configured to store images to be captured by the image processing unit, the memory being unable to overwrite an image currently being stored in a section of the memory with a new image.
17. The reusable camera of claim 16, wherein the image processing unit is configured to store a pre-determined number of images in the memory.
18. A method of using a reusable camera, the method comprising providing the reusable camera, the reusable camera comprising an image processing unit and a memory coupled to the image processing unit, the memory being configured to store a plurality of images to be captured by the image processing unit, the memory being unable to overwrite an image currently being stored in a section of the memory with a new image.
19. A method of using a reusable camera, the reusable camera comprising an image processing unit and a memory coupled to the image processing unit, the memory configured to store a plurality of images to be captured by the image processing unit, the memory being unable to overwrite an image currently being stored in a section of the memory with a new image, the method comprising retrieving at least one image captured by the image processing unit and stored within the memory.
20. The method of claim 19, further comprising invalidating a section of the memory that stores an image captured by the image processing unit.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates to cameras, and more particularly to a reusable camera that has some of the business advantages of a single-use camera.
  • [0003]
    2. Description of the Related Art
  • [0004]
    Disposable single-use cameras do not allow users to review, erase and re-take undesirable exposures before printing the exposures. Users must pay for every exposure to be printed. Disposable cameras are also a problem for the environment because each disposable camera is destroyed after its single use.
  • [0005]
    Digital cameras are expensive, and some types of digital cameras often become obsolete after a few years in view of rapid technological developments.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0006]
    Digital cameras may be built as reusable cameras with flash memory. But flash memory is expensive, limited in capacity and may be illicitly modified (‘hacked’) by a user to bypass any restrictions on reuse that are installed by the camera's manufacturer.
  • [0007]
    A reusable camera with a special memory is provided in accordance with the present invention. In one embodiment, the special memory may be a write-once, non-volatile memory.
  • [0008]
    One aspect of the reusable camera is the special memory has an almost unlimited capacity to store captured images. For example, one embodiment of the special memory may store 10,000 or more images.
  • [0009]
    Another aspect of the reusable camera is the relatively low cost of manufacturing and implementing the special memory, compared to other types of memory (e.g., compact flash memory) that are currently being used in digital cameras.
  • [0010]
    Another aspect of the reusable camera is the special memory provides a convenient way for camera manufacturers, camera dealers and photograph/print developers to control the use of reusable cameras and resulting print developments.
  • [0011]
    Another aspect of the reusable camera is the special memory may be recycled and does not have to be discarded after a customer develops a single set of pictures.
  • [0012]
    One aspect of the invention relates to a reusable camera comprising an image processing unit configured to capture images and a Permanent Inexpensive Removable Memory (PIRM) coupled to the image processing unit. The memory is configured to store a plurality of images to be captured by the image processing unit.
  • [0013]
    Another aspect of the invention relates to a reusable camera comprising an image processing unit configured to capture images and a built-in, non-volatile memory coupled to the image processing unit. The memory is configured to store images to be captured by the image processing unit. The memory is unable to overwrite an image currently being stored in a section of the memory with a new image.
  • [0014]
    Another aspect of the invention relates to a method of using a reusable camera. The method comprises providing a reusable camera with an image processing unit and a memory coupled to the image processing unit. The memory is configured to store a plurality of images to be captured by the image processing unit. The memory is unable to overwrite an image currently being stored in a section of the memory with a new image.
  • [0015]
    Another aspect of the invention relates to another method of using a reusable camera. The reusable camera comprises an image processing unit and a memory coupled to the image processing unit. The memory is configured to store a plurality of images to be captured by the image processing unit. The method comprises retrieving at least one image captured by the image processing unit and stored within the memory. The memory is unable to overwrite an image currently being stored in a section of the memory with a new image.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0016]
    [0016]FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of a reusable camera in accordance with the present invention.
  • [0017]
    [0017]FIG. 2 illustrates one embodiment of a method of using a plurality of cameras, such as the camera 100 of FIG. 1.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0018]
    [0018]FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of a reusable camera 100 in accordance with the present invention. The camera 100 in FIG. 1 comprises a memory 102, a display 104, an image processing unit 106 and a display controller 108. Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the camera 100 in FIG. 1 may comprise other components in addition to or instead of the components described herein, such as a microprocessor, a power supply, a lens, filters and input and output data ports. In one embodiment, the camera 100 is a ‘digital camera.’
  • [0019]
    In one embodiment, the memory 102 of FIG. 1 comprises a relatively large capacity, built-in, non-volatile, write-once memory. For example, one embodiment of the memory 102 comprises a Permanent Inexpensive Removable Memory (PIRM), which is being developed by Hewlett-Packard. Even though the term “PIRM” includes the adjective “Removable,” one embodiment of the camera 100 has a built-in, non-removable PIRM. “PIRM” may also be referred to as a Portable Inexpensive Removable Memory. One embodiment of a PIRM is described in a co-assigned U.S. Patent Application, entitled “NON-VOLATILE MEMORY” (Hewlett Packard Docket No. 10002367) and filed on Apr. ______, 2001, which is hereby incorporated by reference.
  • [0020]
    In general, one embodiment of a PIRM may be made from large sheets of a thin material such as plastic (e.g., mylar) with circuits formed in or on the material. The sheets may be cut, laminated and stacked in multiple layers. A relatively small PIRM unit may have a large memory capacity, such as 1 Gigabyte, and be able to store a large number of images, such as 1000 or 10,000 images. In one embodiment, the memory 102 comprises sections, such as first and second sections 110A, 110B shown in FIG. 1 (referred to herein individually as ‘section 110’ or collectively as ‘sections 110’). In one embodiment, each section 110 may store image data once (write once) and cannot be effectively rewritten with new image data because of the properties of the memory 102.
  • [0021]
    Other embodiments of the camera 100 may use other types of memory. For example, the memory 102 may have a relatively small capacity memory. As another example, the memory 102 may be removable. As another example, the memory 102 may be erased and written with new data. In one embodiment, the camera 100 further comprises a separate memory (not shown) to store firmware used by the image processing unit 106.
  • [0022]
    The image processing unit 106 in FIG. 1 comprises hardware and firmware that captures, encodes and stores images in sections 110 of the memory 102. For example, the image processing unit 106 may comprise a microcontroller or microprocessor, a lens, a zoom unit, a flash and other components.
  • [0023]
    In one embodiment, a manufacturer of the camera 100 configures hardware and/or firmware within the image processing unit 106 (or associated with the image processing unit 106) to limit the number of images that a user may capture and store in the memory 102. For example, the camera manufacturer may configure the image processing unit 106 to only allow a user to capture and store 24 images before the user brings the camera 100 to a print developer to print some or all of the captured images. The manufacturer may set higher prices for cameras 100 configured with higher limits of captured images.
  • [0024]
    The display controller 108 of FIG. 1 may comprise any suitable controller or microprocessor for controlling the display 104. The display controller 106 may comprise hardware, such as an application specific circuit (ASIC), and firmware. In one embodiment, the display controller 106 is integrated with the image processing unit 106.
  • [0025]
    The display 104 of FIG. 1 may comprise any suitable display for displaying images stored in the memory 102 to a user. In one embodiment, the display 104 is a color liquid crystal display (LCD). The display 104 allows a user to invalidate undesirable images in the memory 102 such that the user does not have to pay for developing undesirable images into hard copy prints. In one embodiment, regardless of whether the camera 100 has a display 104, the user may invalidate the last N number of images, for example, by pressing a key on the camera 100.
  • [0026]
    In one embodiment, the camera manufacturer may configure the camera 100 to allow a user to invalidate a pre-determined number of captured images stored in the memory 102 and capture a predetermined number of new images to be stored in other sections of the memory 102. For example, the camera manufacturer may configure the camera 100 to allow a user to invalidate up to 10 captured images stored in the memory 102 and capture 10 new images to be stored in other sections of the memory 102. The camera 100 may be configured to allow a user to invalidate any number of captured images stored in the memory 102.
  • [0027]
    Thus, the camera manufacturer may pre-configure at least three limits for each camera 100: (1) the total number of images that a user may capture and store in the memory 102, e.g., 100, (2) the number of captured images that a user may print, e.g., 30, (3) the number of images a user may invalidate, e.g., a user may invalidate some or all of the captured images stored in the memory 102. The camera manufacturer may sell the camera 100 at different prices depending on these three limits.
  • [0028]
    In one embodiment, the camera manufacturer may set anti-tampering hardware or software in the camera 100 to prevent users from changing any of the three pre-configured limits described above without the authorization of the camera manufacturer or its licensee. The camera manufacturer may sell software and/or hardware to licensees or end-users to change one or more of the pre-configured limits.
  • [0029]
    In one embodiment, in addition to or instead of the three pre-configured limits described above, the camera 100 may be configured to limit the total number of images that a user may capture and store in the memory 102 during a pre-determined time period, such as a month.
  • [0030]
    In one embodiment, only special software controlled by the camera manufacturer and its licensees, such as photograph/print developers, may decode and retrieve images encoded and stored in the memory 102.
  • [0031]
    In one embodiment, when an image is read out of a section 110 of the memory 102, the image processing unit 106 invalidates (blanks out) the particular section 110 where the image was retrieved. When a user captures new images with the camera 100, the image processing unit 106 is configured to store the images in unused sections 110 of the memory 102.
  • [0032]
    [0032]FIG. 2 illustrates one embodiment of a method of using a plurality of cameras, such as the camera 100 of FIG. 1. In a block 200 of FIG. 2, a camera manufacturer or authorized dealer sells, leases or otherwise provides a first reusable camera, such as the camera 100 in FIG. 1, with a first configured limit of captured images, e.g., 30, to a first user. In a block 202 of FIG. 2, the first user captures and stores images up to the first configured limit with the first reusable camera.
  • [0033]
    In a block 204 of FIG. 2, the first user brings the first reusable camera to a print developer to develop the images captured by the first user for a price. The print developer may use authorized software from the camera manufacturer or authorized dealer to retrieve the images stored in the memory 102 (FIG. 1) of the first reusable camera.
  • [0034]
    In a block 206 of FIG. 2, the print developer may sell, lease or otherwise provide a second reusable camera with a second configured limit of captured images to the first user. The second configured limit may be higher, lower or equal to the first configured limit.
  • [0035]
    In a block 208 of FIG. 2, the print developer may use software, hardware or both software and hardware to reconfigure the first reusable camera. Alternatively, the printer developer may send the first reusable camera to the camera manufacturer or dealer to reconfigure the first reusable camera. For example, the print developer, camera manufacturer or dealer may invalidate sections of the memory that stored images, which have been retrieved by the print developer. The print developer, camera manufacturer or dealer configure the image processing module 106 in the camera to store images in unused sections of the memory 102. The print developer, camera manufacturer or dealer may perform other functions to prepare the first reusable camera to be used by the first user or another user.
  • [0036]
    In a block 210 of FIG. 2, the printer developer, camera manufacturer or dealer may sell, lease or otherwise provide the first reusable camera with a third configured limit of captured images to the first user or a second user. The third configured limit may be higher, lower or equal to the first and second configured limits.
  • [0037]
    In a block 212 of FIG. 2, the first user captures and stores images up to the second configured limit with the second reusable camera. In a block 214 of FIG. 2, the print developer develops images captured by user with the second reusable camera for a price.
  • [0038]
    In another method of using the camera 100, the camera manufacturer provides unlimited use of the memory 102 to a user of the camera 100. But the camera manufacturer or a licensee charges the user for a number of prints and a number of deleted images, e.g., $2.00 for each print and $0.25 for each deleted (non-printed) image. The camera 100 allows the customer to take a very large (almost unlimited) number of pictures with a single camera without buying film, which may be particularly useful while the user is on vacation. Also, the user will only have to pay a small charge for bad images.
  • [0039]
    The above-described embodiments of the present invention are merely meant to be illustrative and not limiting. Various changes and modifications may be made without departing from the invention in its broader aspects. The appended claims encompass such changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the invention.
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7450152 *Sep 5, 2002Nov 11, 2008Olympus Optical Co., Ltd.Digital camera, customer authentication communication terminal equipment, and encoding service system
US7612803Jun 10, 2003Nov 3, 2009Zoran CorporationDigital camera with reduced image buffer memory and minimal processing for recycling through a service center
US8120669Oct 1, 2009Feb 21, 2012Zoran CorporationDigital camera with reduced image buffer memory and minimal processing for recycling through a service center
US20030052975 *Sep 5, 2002Mar 20, 2003Olympus Optical Co., Ltd.Digital camera, customer authentication communication terminal equipment, and encoding service system
US20100020199 *Oct 1, 2009Jan 28, 2010Zoran CorporationDigital camera with reduced image buffer memory and minimal processing for recycling through a service center
EP2362628A1 *Feb 18, 2011Aug 31, 2011Win How ChenSingle use digital camera
WO2004114638A1 *May 19, 2004Dec 29, 2004Zoran CorpDigital camera with reduced image buffer memory and minimal processing for recycling through a service center
Classifications
U.S. Classification348/231.9, 386/E05.072, 348/231.3, 348/222.1
International ClassificationH04N5/77, G03B15/00, H04N5/225, H04N5/907, H04N1/00, H04N101/00
Cooperative ClassificationH04N1/0018, H04N1/00132, H04N5/772, H04N2101/00
European ClassificationH04N1/00C2H5, H04N5/77B, H04N1/00C2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Sep 4, 2001ASAssignment
Owner name: HEWLETT-PACKARD COMPANY, COLORADO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:CARAU, FRANK P., SR.;REEL/FRAME:012137/0752
Effective date: 20010607