A fully flat fisheye lens from MIT

MIT Engineers create a fully flat fisheye objective to simplify the development of wide-angle cameras.

A fully flat fisheye lens from MIT

The engineers at MIT have invented, in collaboration with Massachusetts University in Lowell, a way of creating a camera lens that avoids the standard ultra-large-angle glass spherical curve while also offering real optical fisheye distortions. The fisheye lens is relatively skilled in the production of images that can cover as wide an area as or more than 180 degrees, but it can be very expensive to manufacture and usually are heavy, long lenses that cannot be used on small cameras like smartphones.

For the first time, a flat lens has created clear, 180-degree pictures covering a true panoramic spread. The engineers were able to do this by modeled a thin wafer of glass on one side with very precise positioned microscopic, 3D structures to diffuse inbound light much as a curved glass piece would.

In reality, the version developed by the researchers is primarily intended for the infrarot part of the spectrum but can also adapt the design to work with the visible light. There are a number of potential uses of this technology, whether IR or visible light, as capturing an overall 180 degree panorama is useful not only in certain types of images but also in handy applications such as medical imaging and computer vision applications where the number of image data is important for interpretation.

This model is just one representation of what is known as a 'metal lens,' which employs microscopic characteristics to alter its optical characteristics in ways typically done by macro-structural changes, such as creating an externally curved lens or stacking several glass parts with different curvatures to achieve a specified field of view.

What's odd here is that even the engineers who worked on the project were shocked by the fact that they were able to achieve a simple, accurate and acert 180 degree panoramic view with a perfectly flat metal design. It certainly goes beyond what many people supposed to be the state of the art to progress in science.