New Scientist: A team led by Edoardo Charbon, a professor from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute (EPFL) in Lausanne presented their so-called "gigavision" sensor at an OMNIVIS 2009 workshop on Oct. 4 in Kyoto, Japan.
While Charbon's idea is new and has a patent pending, the principle behind it is not. It has long been known that memory chips are extremely sensitive to light. The charge stored in every cell corresponds to whether that cell is in a light or dark area. Memory cell is small, so for every pixel on one of today's sensors, the memory-based sensor could have 100 pixels. A chip the size of a 10MP camera sensor will have 100 times as many sensing cells if implemented in memory technology - hence the choice of the gigavision name.
Unlike the pixels in a conventional sensor, which record a greyscale, the cells in Charbon's memory-chip sensor are simple on-off devices: they can only store a digital 0 or 1, for which read either light or dark. To build a sensor that can record shades of grey, EPFL engineer Feng Yang, who presented the Kyoto paper, is developing a software algorithm that looks across an array of 100 pixels to estimate their overall greyscale value.
On the surface this sounds a lot like Eric Fossum's Digital Jot idea. Once EPFL patent application is published, one can see what is the difference. I'm almost sure that EPFL team is aware of the prior art and did something different.
Comments to the New Scientist article point that using of RAMs as sensors is known since 70s, so this part of the work is hardly new.