Insect-inspired Device to Capture Panoramic View and Sharp Focus

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Lenses are critical to photography and video – but what if you’re wanting to capture a really wide field of view? This article is intriguing because the researchers are striving to mimic insects because they have much wider field of view with their eyes.

As you’ll see below, the critical piece (which i’d never really thought about) is that electronic sensors are flat and tho most lenses we use on our cameras have some curvature, they’re nothing like the lens of an insect. Even fisheye lenses have massive curvature in the front elements but they’re sending their images to a flat sensor.

Who knows if this will ever apply to our photography, but it is very interesting to think about!

Digital camera gives a bug's-eye view

Insect eyes are made up of hundreds or even thousands of light-sensing structures called ommatidia. Each contains a lens and a cone that funnels light to a photosensitive organ. The long, thin ommatidia are bunched together to form the hemispherical eye, with each ommatidium pointing in a slightly different direction. This structure gives bugs a wide field of view, with objects in the periphery just as clear as those in the centre of the visual field, and high motion sensitivity. It also allows a large depth of field — objects are in focus whether they're nearby or at a distance.

The biggest challenge in mimicking the structure of an insect eye in a camera is that electronics are typically flat and rigid, says John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “In biology, everything is curvy,” he says.

The new device, which Rogers and his colleagues describe today in Nature, comprises an array of microlenses connected to posts that mimic the light-funnelling cones of ommatidia, layered on top of a flexible array of silicon photodetectors. The lens–post pairs are moulded from a stretchy polymer called an elastomer. A filling of elastomer dyed with carbon black surrounds the structures, preventing light from leaking between them. The lens is about 1 centimetre in diameter.

“The whole thing is stretchy and thin, and we blow it up like a balloon” so that it curves like a compound eye, says Rogers. The current prototype produces black-and-white images only, but Rogers says a colour version could be made with the same design.

Continue reading this article on “Digital camera gives a bug's-eye view” [source: AMC]

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(cover photo credit: snap from

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