Biomimicry is when technology mimics a particular aspect of nature, sometimes even a fully functional system, often resulting in amazing innovations that have been hiding in the natural world all along. One such example has come from Ohio State University, a bug-inspired lens that combines the wide angle properties of insect vision with the depth-of-field capabilities of the human eye.
Developed by associate professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology, Yi Zhao, the 5 mm-wide prototype lens is made up of a series of fluid-filled transparent polymer pockets arranged over a dome that can be contracted and expanded to change the focus and direction of the lens.
Potential applications for the device include smartphone cameras, allowing for wide-angle shots without the need for an excessive lens, and surgical imaging, allowing doctors to see inside the body with a level of precision not seen before. While the current prototype requires fluid to be manually pumped in and out of the lens, an updated version that uses electric signals to do the job is on the way.
Talking with GizMag, Zhao outlined just how the lens could be used by medical professionals:
With our lens, doctors could get the wide-angle view they need, and still be able to judge the distance between the lens and tissue. They could place instruments with more confidence, and remove a tumor more easily, for example.