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May 3, 2013

Digital Camera Offers a Bug’s Perspective

New Technology Enables 180-Degree Photography

Bugs are the inspiration for a new hemispherical digital camera, created by a group of university researchers from across the globe.

The digital camera is designed to mimic the bulging eyes of bees, dragonflies and other insects.

The cameras offer a 180-degree-wide field of view, “with low aberrations, high acuity to motion, and nearly infinite depth of field,” according to a University of Illinois report.

The camera is outfitted with a multitude of image sensors and focusing lenses that surround a hemispherical base. This configuration enables the camera to capture high-quality 180-degree photographs.

University of Illinois image The new digital cameras exploit large arrays of tiny focusing lenses and miniaturized detectors in hemispherical layouts, just like eyes found in arthropods.

University of Illinois image
The new digital cameras exploit large arrays of tiny focusing lenses and miniaturized detectors in hemispherical layouts, just like eyes found in arthropods.

“Full 180-degree fields of view with zero aberrations can only be accomplished with image sensors that adopt hemispherical layouts – much different than the planar CCD chips found in commercial cameras,” said University of Illinois professor John Rogers.

“When implemented with large arrays of microlenses, each of which couples to an individual photodiode, this type of hemispherical design provides unmatched field of view and other powerful capabilities in imaging. Nature has developed and refined these concepts over the course of billions of years of evolution.”

The researchers, over the course of six years, were forced to rethink both materials and fabrication strategies to create the proper structure for the lenses.

“A critical feature of our fly’s eye cameras is that they incorporate integrated microlenses, photodetectors, and electronics on hemispherically curved surfaces,” said Jianliang Xiao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of the study.

“To realize this outcome, we used soft, rubbery optics bonded to detectors/electronics in mesh layouts that can be stretched and deformed, reversibly and without damage.”

Once in place, each small lense captures an image of the subject from its point of view. These captured images are merged to create a single 180-degree photo of the subject.

According to a Nature report, Rogers says the next step is to inflate and deflate the camera to adjust its field of view.

 

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