CNET's Stephen Shankland describes an experimental camera lens for taking 3D pictures.
Fife's 3-megapixel sensor prototype breaks the scene up into many small, slightly overlapping 16x16-pixel patches called subarrays... After a photo is taken, image-processing software then analyzes the slight location differences for the same element appearing in different patches--for example, where a spot on a subject's shirt is relative to the wallpaper behind it. These differences from one subarray to the next can be used to deduce the distance of the shirt and the wall.
The next breakthrough in digital photography will come when a sensor is applied to every pixel. This would allow the 3D photography described above, as well as eliminating the problem of extreme contrast, such as when a person is backlit by the sun.