Human and insect vision combined to create new wideangle lens

Human and insect vision combined to create new wideangle lens

first_imgThe human eye is incredible in many ways. Look through any camera and you’ll see that no matter how big the lens or how clever the processor, it has trouble competing against those two little spheres on the front of your face and the four-or-so pounds of grey matter behind them. As great as our eyes are, other species have some distinct advantages. Researchers are now trying to harness some of those advantages, specifically those of insects, in new types of lenses.A new lense, developed at Ohio State University, is said to be able to combine the strengths of the human eye with that of an insect’s. Humans, OSU points out, have eyes that are very good at focusing, while insects’ compound eyes are generally known for their wide-angle viewing. There are many different types of insects and different types of insect eyes, but a common trait is the uses of multiple lenses whose images are later combined into a single image by the brain. There are many advantages to a compound eye structure — aside from looking incredibly cool, there can be advantages in low light, that huge field of view, and the ability to recognize changes more quickly than other eye types. The downsides to compound eyes usually include decreased resolution and focusing abilities.OSU’s Yi Zhao’s goal was to combined  the human eye’s ability to focus with the insect eye’s wide-angle viewing in order to produce a new type of lens. He accomplished this using a transparent polymer with “a gelatinous fluid” inside of it. This fluid is described as being just like that goop inside the human eye. The lens, seen below, is actually a combination of nine microlenses, which don’t exactly look like a fly’s eye, but as the fluid moves and the individual domes expand and contract, the effect is the same.One major advantage of this lens system is that it has no moving parts. Instead, its adjustments are made by the fluid’s effect on the flexible structure. The lack of moving parts — such as lens elements — mean that the insect-inspired lens can be smaller, simpler, and lighter than a standard lens would be. This could make it ideal for specialty applications, such as in a mobile phone, a laparoscope, or any device that needs to be able to take a bump.One considerable downside of the current design of Zhao’s lens can be viewed in the image above. In order to control the fluid and thus focus the lens, an external reservoir is needed in which the fluid is stored. In a commercial product, the fluid storage and pumping (which was done by hand for the prototype’s testing) would have to be addressed in a more elegant, more compact manner. The next steps for Zhao and his team are to work on these refinements while shrinking down the lens to a size that can be used in a mobile phone.Interestingly, this isn’t the only lens project that is trying to learn from the wide world of insect eyesight. A camera system is being developed by the University of Illinois that also hopes to use the compound eye structure in order to have a nearly 180-degree field of view.[images by Jo McCulty, courtesy of Ohio State University] VIEW PHOTO GALLERY Insect Lens 3Insect Lens 3Insect Lens 2zhaolens1last_img

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