Taking cues from the eyes of arthropods, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a camera sensor that mimics the working of the eyes of insects like flies, giving 180 degree field of views with no distortions and nearly limitless depth-of-field.
The unique sensor features densely packed arrays of hemispherically arranged focusing lenses and miniaturized detectors. The researchers had to spend years to develop the sensor, creating new materials and techniques to make the design a reality. The key was soft, rubbery optics in mesh layouts, which can be stretched, bent and deformed without damage.
The similarity of form extends to a similarity of function, too. The microlenses around the surface of the hemisphere each indivually capture an image, which overlaps with the images produced by other microlenses. This array of tiny overlapping images can then be reconstructed into the desired final sampled output image using a model of the sensor’s optics.
The technology was funded in part by DARPA, so expect it to see military use. We can only hope to find it in consumer electronics someday soon.
(via The Verge)