Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created the first flat ultra-wide-angle panoramic lens. Its field of view is over 170 degrees.
The scientists explained that to capture panoramic views in a single frame, photographers typically use fisheye lenses — ultra-wide-angle lenses made of several pieces of curved glass that distort incoming light to produce wide, bubble-shaped images. However, their spherical, multi-piece design makes the lenses bulky and expensive to manufacture.
Now engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell have developed a wide-angle lens that is completely flat. It is the first flat fisheye lens to capture crisp 180-degree panoramic shots. The structure is a type of “metal” – a thin material with microscopic characteristics that interact with each other to control light.
In this case, the new fisheye lens consists of a single flat millimeter-wide piece of glass covered with tiny structures that precisely scatter incoming light to produce panoramic images. The lens works in the infrared part of the spectrum, but the researchers say it can be modified to take images using visible light.
The new lens can be used in smartphones and laptops, as well as connected to a variety of external devices. Low profile lenses can also be integrated into medical imaging devices such as endoscopes, as well as virtual reality glasses, wearable electronics, and other computer vision devices.
“This design is somewhat surprising because some thought it was impossible to make a single flat object with an ultra-wide-angle view,” said the researchers at MIT. “The fact that it can actually be we were able to come to this is a great achievement”.