The miniaturized camera was inspired by the natural vision of many predators, including eagles. It is designed to capture high-quality images with a high central sharpness (or 'acuity'). The complex parts are fashioned onto a chip to form a multi-aperture camera.
The process of creating the camera involves "foveated imaging." This process is named after the fovea area of the eye, which gives the highest acuity in vision. The fovea centralis
is a small, central pit
composed of closely packed cones in the eye; it is responsible for sharp central vision. Inspired by this the premise of the camera is that since many tasks do not need equal clarity across a field of view, only the central view needs to be the most detailed.
The new camera, Live Science reports
, consists of four printed lenses. Each lens has different focal lengths; these range from a narrow (20 degree) to a wide (70 degree) field of view. The combination of these lenses crates the "foveated image, where there is a high resolution in the center. In tests the £D printed camera has outperformed a conventional camera of similar size placed in a small drone.
Applications for the camera included medicine, such as with endoscopy; other areas include a variety of optical sensors, plus surveillance drones. The field of micro-optics is one that is becoming ever more sophisticated as technology improves.
The development of the camera is described in the journal Science
. The paper is headed "3D-printed eagle eye: Compound microlens system for foveated imaging."