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New “insect eye” cameras could someday help flying drones see into every corner of a battlefield or give tiny medical scopes an all-around view inside the human body.A team of researchers from the United States has constructed such a camera, which offers an almost 180-degree field of view using hundreds of tiny lenses.The centimeter-wide digital camera has 180 microlenses—roughly what fire ants or bark beetles have in their compound eyes—placed on a hemispherical array.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 .
First, the hemispherical shape allows for extremely wide-angle fields of view.
Second, the hemispherical array of tiny lenses has an almost infinite depth of field, which keeps objects in focus regardless of their distance from the camera.
But camera chips aren’t usually shaped like fly eyes.
Researchers faced the tricky task of bending the camera into a hemispherical shape without distorting the image created by each lens or ruining the electronics beneath the tiny lenses.
Their solution “relies on composites of hard and soft materials in strategic layouts that allow stretching and bending and flexing to go from planar [flat] to hemispherical form,” Rogers says.