The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced a new chip that automatically combines multiple images taken nearly simultaneously to produce high quality photos. This chip takes a photo at different exposure levels and then combines the resulting images into one perfectly exposed photo. It can also combine a flash photo with a non-flash photo to correctly expose all parts of the image. Finally, the MIT chip uses a unique filtering process to reduce noise without adversely affecting sharpness.
These techniques are available now, but they require extensive image processing and computation and are not easily implemented on a camera or cell phone.
I hope Apple is paying attention to this announcement because I would love to see these features in my next iPhone. More details on the MIT chip are available from MIT news at Picture-perfect.