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Tech Wednesday, May 1st 2013 at 1:39 pm

New Distortion-Free Camera Lenses Inspired by Insect Eyes

Bug Eye Lens

Need a camera that can take a clear picture of the whole landscape before you? They’re not easy to make and take a lot of technical know-how. Lowly critters like flies and bees, though, come with these complex devices as standard equipment. Now, a team of researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois are taking a cue from those insect eyes to design a next-generation camera lens that can capture extremely sharp images in wide field of view. And before you ask, yes, it’s pretty freaky looking.

The new lens is actually an array composed of 180 microlenses arranged in a bubble configuration, mimicking the eyes of insects in their hemispherical, multi-lensed design. According to a report on the work in today’s issue of the journal Nature, this bubble of lenses acts like the compound eyes found in many insects, from ants to dragonflies. In other words — fish eye lens, meet bug eye lens.

Each microlens, which is made of a rubbery substance that can flex like a contact lens, captures a slightly different image of the scene, one from it’s own angle and vantage point. After the picture is snapped, these images are combined together where they overlap, resulting in a very clear image with a wide angle and a pretty incredible depth of field. Researchers say the cameras could one day be put into service in fields like surveillance and endoscopy, though we really hope not both at the same time.

(via University of Illinois, image via Elliot Bennett)

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