Bug Eye Camera that Captures Wide Field of View

First Posted: May 02, 2013 04:49 AM EDT

An experimental digital camera that mimics the compound eyes possessed by insects such as dragonflies, houseflies and praying mantises has been designed by scientists. The innovative camera, which can capture wide-angle photos without distorting the image, was built by a team of researchers along with a University of Colorado Boulder engineer.  

Details of the camera have been described in the journal Nature. Using stretchable electronics and a pliable sheet of micro-lenses constructed from a similar material that is used in contact lenses, the camera permits a practically infinite depth of field and can capture a 160-degree-wide field of view.  

Generally, in conventional wide-angle lenses, the images captured are distorted at the periphery due to the mismatch of light, but in the recent studies, researchers created an electronic detector that is capable of being curved into the same hemispherical shape as that of the lens without distorting the photos.

"The most important and most revolutionizing part of this camera is to bend electronics onto a curved surface," Jianliang Xiao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at CU-Boulder and co-lead author of the study said in a news statement. "Here, by using stretchable electronics we can deform the system; we can put it onto a curved surface."   

Compound eyes are made up of several smaller eyes known as ommatidia, in which each ommatidia consists of an autonomous corneal lens and crystalline cone that captures light travelling through the lens. By mimicking the corneal lens crystalline cone pairing, the camera was created having 180 miniature lenses, in which each camera was backed with a small electronic detector. The number of lenses in the camera matched that of the number of ommatidia present in the compound eyes of dark beetles and fire ants. 

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