Nature-Inspired Camera Brings Design Into Focus
Even the lowly housefly reveals nature’s wonder and points to the divine Designer. In 2013, a team of researchers achieved an important breakthrough in digital camera design by producing a prototype based on the design of an insect’s compound eye.
The eyes of flies and other arthropods are made up of hundreds, even thousands, of individual optical elements called facets, each equipped with a lens and light-sensitive photoreceptor cells. Facets are packed together on the eye’s hemispherical surface and each is uniquely oriented in space to sample only a small portion of the environment. The insect’s brain assembles the many images produced by the many facets into a 360° combined image with all objects simultaneously in focus. These panoramic images with an infinite depth of field are ideal for detecting the relative motion of nearby objects—a key to the insects’ survival.
Nature’s inspiration provided the research team a template for building a new type of digital camera with an infinite depth of field and a panoramic view. Their design employed a layer of deformable (changeable in shape and/or volume when acted upon by an external force) micro-lenses that sits on top of another layer of photoreceptors. The team also translated the planar (two-dimensional) geometry of the design into a hemispherical configuration.
This stunning digital camera will be any photographer’s dream. More importantly, the scientists’ work highlights one of the many elegant designs found throughout the natural realm. It would seem remarkable to think that the products of undirected processes could ever serve to inspire the work of technologically sophisticated human designers. Instead, it seems much more reasonable to think that designs in nature––such as a bug’s eye––reflect the work of a Creator.