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Camera inspired by insect eyes can see 180 degrees, has almost infinite depth of field

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Technologists have been drawing inspiration from the insect world for a long time. And folks working on robotics really seem to love their creepy-crawlies and buzzing arthropods. Researchers at the University of Illinois are looking to our eight-legged planet mates, not for mobility lessons, but as a reference for a new camera design. The system mimics the vision of bees and mantises by combining multiple lenses on a half hemisphere to provide a 180-degree view with a nearly infinite depth of field. The optics themselves are described as "soft, rubbery" and each individual microlens is paired with its own photodiode. The work gets us a heck of a lot closer to the dream of a digital fly eye than previous efforts, though we're likely still quite a while from seeing applications outside of the lab. DARPA funding suggests the artificial compound eyes may have a future in surveillance, though the researchers also see uses for it in medicine.

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