Expanding camera lens combines insect, human vision

Ohio State University’s Yi Zhao looks through a lens that can achieve wide-angle views with depth.

(Credit: Jo McCulty/Ohio State University)

Insects’ hemispheric eyes have a wide field of view and high resolution. What if they could be combined with the focusing abilities humans enjoy?

This lens from Ohio State University is a hybrid of both. It has a wide field of view as well as depth of field, and could allow smartphones to take dSLR-level images and or surgeons to see inside their patients more clearly.

Presented earlier this year at an IEEE Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) conference, the prototype lens expands and contracts like the muscles of a human eye to change its shape and focus.

The compound lens is built from a flexible transparent polymer and has several dome-like bulbs on its surface. The whole thing is 0.19 inch across and filled with a gelatinous fluid. As the stuff is pumped in and out, parts expand or contract to vary the focus.

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