This Camera Sees the World Like an Ant

By Jamie Condliffe on at

While you'd be forgiven for thinking that this looks like a dome of bubble wrap, it's actually the world's first working compound-eye camera — which sees the world just like an insect would.

With 180 separate imaging elements — each replicating the separate ommatidium, or "small eyes" which make up an insect's odd visual system — arranged over its surface, it works just like the eye of a fly or ant. That means it offers a wide field of view and virtually infinite depth of field.

The camera is capable of acquiring images which take in 160 degrees of its surrounding, with very little distortion at the edges — because each sensor works independently. The downside: each of the 180 ommatidium contribute just a single pixel to the picture, meaning the images are far from sharp. In fact, that means it's a fair representation of a fire ant's vision — they have just 180 ommatidia — but there's a way to go before it rivals other insects: dragonflies, for instance, have something like 20,000. The research is published in Nature.

Still, it's an interesting development, and the researchers think that the device — if improved upon -- could go on to be used in spy cameras. So that's what they mean when they say bugging. [Nature via Popular Science]