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Innovative Optics Inspired by Nature

Nature is the ultimate problem solver and design expert, especially when it comes to vision. Take, for instance, what scientists have learned about a fly’s eye. Did you know that a fly’s vision is so fast that it is capable of tracking movements up to five times faster than human eyes? Incredibly, scientists also found pathways in a fly’s eye that correlate closely to humans, promising future therapies for disease such as cancer and cardiac conditions. As technology trends toward miniaturization and efficiency, a fly’s eye just might hold the answer to solving some big problems for society.

A relatively new science called Biomimicry promotes the transfer of ideas, designs and strategies from biology to sustainable human design. So, by studying a fly’s eye, researchers uncover sophisticated mechanical and chemical processes that may someday change the way we think about designing our own optical devices.

Facet vision, a research and development project of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering financed by the Fraunhofer Future Foundation in joint collaboration with Jabil’s design team in Jena, Germany, and other industrial partners, is a great example of how researchers are exploring next-generation designs in imaging optics. Inspired by a fly’s eye, researchers mimic insects’ multi-aperture lenses known as facet eyes to generate new camera modules with improved miniaturization based on fabrication techniques suitable for high volume production. Also, wafer-level optics semiconductor technologies will be adapted for highly cost effective manufacturing and assembly of optical components similar to standard semiconductor elements on a printed circuit board (PCB). Thanks to these innovative approaches to design and technology, researchers are able to answer market demand for smaller and more sophisticated consumer electronic devices, machine vision, and medical and sensing applications.


The Advancement of Mobile Computing Cameras

Cameras are central to mobile device technology. Social Media platforms thrive on consumers’ ability to snap a shot and post it within seconds. Cameras are also becoming common in the business world. International conference calls are now face-to-face and less costly thanks to the IP technology.

Facet vision’s ultra-compact imaging solutions are addressing the most challenging market requirements – high-volume fabrication at low cost based on parallelized wafer processing, high resolution from VGA up to several megapixels and ultra-thin design featuring a total track length of only 50 percent compared to conventional single-aperture cameras enabling even slimmer portable communications devices.


The Future Looks Bright

With this technology, Facet vision may find its way into spatial recognition used by autonomous vehicles, 3D-gesture recognition for human-machine-interaction, 3D-scenes and facial recognition for novel security and mobility concepts. Imagine spatial recognition of 3D-shapes for highly-automated production processes and even plenoptic cameras.

It’s a brave new world as scientists, inspired by nature, develop a new generation of technology to solve some of mankind´s challenges. What’s your industry’s biggest challenge and how might nature inspire your company to create new opportunities for your products?



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