Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation, the University of Illinois Department of Engineering has been developing a camera system that draws upon nature in a way like nothing we’ve seen before.
Engadget describes this ‘arthropodsuse compound design’ as one that “mimics the vision of bees and mantises by combining multiple lenses on a half hemisphere to provide a 180-degree view with a nearly infinite depth of field,” which is a huge step in the worlds of science and technology. In colloquial terms, the design utilizes a multitude of tiny little cameras aligned in an insect-eye-like organization to obtain optimal sensory input.
“This class of technology,” as explains the University, “offers exceptionally wide-angle fields of view, with low aberrations, high acuity to motion, and nearly infinite depth of field.”
Jianliang Xiao, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Colorado Boulder, and coauthor of this study, says that a “critical feature of our fly’s eye cameras is that they incorporate integrated microlenses, photodetectors, and electronics on hemispherically curved surfaces.” The lab used “soft, rubbery optics bonded to detectors/electronics in mesh layouts that can be stretched and deformed, reversibly and without damage.”
Lead researcher John A, Rogers notes that "nature has developed and refined these concepts over the course of billions of years of evolution." This is certainly a step further in that direction.
The advanced technology of these “eyes” creates a camera that has immense potential for use in society. In the future, notes Engadget, the system could be used as a more advanced form of surveillance, as well as in “tools for endoscopy, and other applications where these insect-inspired designs provide unique capabilities,” says Rogers.
There is no word as of yet as to when the technology will be deployed, but we’ll certainly be looking out for it!