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Nature Inspires Ultra-thin, Flat Camera


Photography has come a long way in a very short time. Our technology has evolved in leaps and bounds from the giant, clunky things that took ages to snap a single photo. But if you think cameras hit their high mark with the selfie-stick and digital photography, think again. An incredibly small camera is heading to the market, and it means big changes for the world of photography — courtesy of some inspiration from nature.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany have taken an idea from the natural world and turned it into the next wave of photography. They’ve created a completely new type of camera: flat, and no larger than 2mm. The inspiration is easy to see: the new tiny camera is based off of the way insect eyes are designed, partitioned into dozens of facets (135, in this case). These little lenses each take a picture of part of the image; together, they form a mosaic that results in high-resolution images from a device that’s roughly the size of a crayon tip.

The scientists are calling this concept facetVISION, and they believe that mass-production is on the horizon. Using similar techniques to semiconductor production, facetVISION could manufacture the needed computer chips in large quantities. Thousands of the camera lenses are poised for production already at the German research organization — and companies worldwide are taking notice.

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The cameras have a plethora of uses, from medical technology that requires high-definition optical sensors and small devices to lab research that relies on accurate imagery and reliable tools. Additional applications could include the industrial sector as well as the automotive industry, where car designers are constantly searching for a better and more effective parking camera.

And let’s not forget the obvious application: incorporating these cameras into a smartphone. With a lens that’s less than half of the current smartphone camera size, facetVISION would streamline the look of most smartphone designs (no more unsightly camera bumps) while simultaneously providing high quality photos for users. This insect eye camera concept is going to provide a dramatic change for a number of fields, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.

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