Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in U.S. have developed the first flat fisheye lens that can capture ultra-wide-angle and 180-degree panoramic images.
This could be adapted as a thin, ultra-wide lens for a range of applications, including smartphones and laptops, to replace bulky add-ons, MIT said in a statement.
The design is a type of meta-lens, a wafer-thin material patterned with microscopic features that work together to manipulate light in a specific way.
The lens consists of a single, flat, millimeter-thin piece of glass covered on one side with tiny structures that precisely scatter incoming light to produce panoramic images.
The lens works in the infrared part of the spectrum, but it could be modified to capture images using visible light as well.
The team says the new lens can be adapted to other wavelengths of light, allowing the lens to capture varying depths.
The researchers are exploring applications beyond compact fisheye cameras -- panoramic projectors, as well as depth sensors built directly into smartphones, laptops, and wearable devices.
Currently, 3D sensors can only recognise the user if they face the smartphone. But the lens could also be used as a 3D sensor to enable panoramic depth profiling, which could be useful for consumer electronic devices.