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High Tech Camera Inspired by Bug Eyes

Update Date: May 02, 2013 08:35 PM EDT

What would be the purpose for a digital camera that has the same functionality as that of an insect's compound eye? Researchers who created it at the University of Illinois believe it will have many uses including the ability to offer high quality imaging during endoscopic procedures in hospitals.

The researchers describe their breakthrough work in an article entitled: "Digital Cameras With Designs Inspired By the Arthropod Eye," published in the current issue of the journal Nature.

The camera is equipped with image sensors and focusing lenses around a hemispherical base. It can capture a sharp image across an angle of 180 degrees - an impossible feat for conventional cameras.

"If you look at the design of the compound eye in the insect world and look at our device, there are really strict and explicit analogies between all the component parts," said John Rogers, a professor at the University of Illinois.

"Full 180 degree fields of view with zero aberrations can only be accomplished with image sensors that adopt hemispherical layouts - much different than the planar CCD chips found in commercial cameras," Rogers said.

"When implemented with large arrays microlenses, each of which couples to an individual photodiode, this type of hemispherical design provides unmatched field of view and other powerful capabilities in imaging. Nature has developed and refined these concepts over the course of billions of years of evolution."

The team also believes the technology can be used to create high tech surveillance cameras. It'll probably be a couple of years before something like the bug's eye camera is available for sale, they said. 

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