Eagles and other predators may be known for their sharp vision, but that claim really applies to the middle of their visual field – an area that corresponds to their fovea, which is the center of their eyes' retina. This means that while things in the periphery of their vision are of average clarity, the subject that they're watching is in very sharp focus. Scientists have now applied that same concept, called foveated imaging, to a miniature camera.
Led by Dr. Simon Thiele of Germany's University of Freiburg, the team mounted four tiny 3D-printed lenses on an image-sensing chip. Those lenses all had different focal lengths, ranging from a narrow 20-degree to a wide 70-degree field of view.
The chip combined the images from each lens, overlaying them one on top of another to form a single composite image. When compared to images from a comparable single-lens miniature camera, the center of that foveated image was found to be significantly sharper.
It is now hoped that the technology could be used in mini drones, vision sensors in robotic arms, or for other applications in which the task at hand requires a very clear central view.
The scientists are currently looking into adding an antireflective coating to the lenses, along with bringing down the fabrication time to make the technology more commercially-viable.