Camera lens inspired by bug eyes captures full 180-degree view

May 1, 2013 at 4:10 PM

EVANSTON, Ill., May 1 (UPI) -- Inspired by an insect eye, U.S. scientists say they've developed a hemispherical digital camera with an exceptional wide-angle field of view and sharp images.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University say their camera mimics the complex eye of a fly with nearly 200 tiny lenses, essentially a big eye comprised of many small eyes.

The new camera's lens is a rounded half bubble that can take pictures with a wide field of view, a Northwestern release reported Wednesday.

The new technology could find a place in future surveillance devices or for imaging in endoscopic medical procedures, the researchers said.

"What we have, in a sense, is many small eyes on one big eye," Northwestern's Yonggang Huang said. "Each small eye, composed of a microlens and a microscale photodetector, is a separate imaging system, but when they are all taken together, the camera can take a clear picture, with just one snap, of nearly 180 degrees."

"Existing camera imaging technology is flat, and we made a system that is curvilinear," Huang said.

A possible next step would be to combine two of the hemispheres to get a full 360-degree view, the researchers said.

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