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Bug-eyed! This digital camera tech gives 180-degree view

Researchers say the insect-inspired technology can provide full, 180-degree fields of view with no interpretive mistakes in image quality.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

A team of researchers at several universities around the world has created a new digital camera technology that takes cues from bug eyes.

The technology, which has not yet been named, is designed after the eyes found in arthropods. The camera is equipped with a a slew of image sensors and focusing lenses around a hemispherical base. With the sensors arranged in that way, the camera can take complete 180-degree pictures with no interpretive mistakes in image quality.

"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," one of the researchers, John A. Rogers, said recently in a statement. "When implemented with large arrays of 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."

The technology is by no means simple. According to the researchers, they needed a host of technologically advanced techniques and materials just to get the lenses in their proper location. Once the lenses are in place, they each snap a small image of the subject, based on their angle. Those images then come together to create a single picture of the subject.

The work that's gone into the technology appears to be nothing short of daunting -- it took the researchers more than six years to develop the setup.

More information on the technology has been published today in the latest issue of "Nature."