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Eyeball camera zooms into focus

Bionic man, eat your heart out

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin's bionic eye could become reality thanks to the development of a "curvilinear camera" that mimics the human eye, has added zoom capabilities and is the size of a one pence piece.

US scientists from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois have constructed the "eyeball camera", which includes a 3.5x optical zoom, takes sharp images and doesn't cost much to produce, they say.

The camera has broad potential and once optimised, could be implemented in a range of consumer tech that includes night vision specs, robotic vision and endoscopic devices.

Eyeball camera

Eyeball-shaped cameras already exist, but lack the ability to zoom because their detectors are rigid.

The new device has a grid of sensors mounted on an elastic membrane, which is integrated with a lens that sits on a water chamber - furthering the consensus that H2O is the way forward with lens technology.

The detector and lens are initially flat. Pump liquid in and out of the chamber, and the sensor's shape goes concave or convex. Control the amount of water in the 'eye' - and thus the exact curvature of the sensor and the shape of the lens, and you can focus the device and adjust the zoom.

The boffins - Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and John Rogers, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - have worked on this tech for several years, figuring out how to build inflexible silicon detectors onto a flexible membrane which can be distorted without damaging the sensors.

Find more on the project on the Robert R McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science website. ®

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