The tiny camera has 180 microlenses which gives it a 180° viewing angle. This however is just the prototype, they plan to improve it. And if they are successful they will be more effective than the real thing.
“Researchers hope their design will eventually lead to insect-eye cameras that exceed even nature’s blueprints, according to a report in the 2 May issue of the journal Nature.”
“We think of the insect world as an inspiration for design, but we’re not constrained by it,” says John Rogers, a physical chemist and materials engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s not biomimicry; it’s bioinspiration.”
But the wide-angle field of view Isn’t everything that great about this. It also provides an almost infinite depth of field, which keeps objects in focus regardless of their distance from the camera.
The researchers say the most tricky thing about developing this technology was bending the camera sensor into a dome without getting distortions.
The tiny lenses are put on top of a flexible base membrane made from elastomeric polydimethylsiloxane material, which is also used in contact lenses. This protects The lenses from any bending or stretching.
The design they used to build it allows it to inflate and deflate to alter the cameras viewing angle. Which is something completely new.
The insect-eye camera depends on each individual unit to contribute 1 pixel of resolution. A 180-pixel-resolution camera may not do much right now, but the camera design can scale up its resolution by adding more units to the overall array. Rogers anticipates making camera designs with better resolution than the eyes of praying mantises (15 000 eye units) and dragonflies (28 000 eye units).
So what is this good for? UAV’s, no doubt will use this technology. And it might be good for other exploration missions as well. Also it may be used for endoscopy and other medical purposes.