A fire ant is shown on a prototype of a new digital camera modeled after the insect's domed, multilensed eyes.

Story highlights

Researchers have created a digital camera that mimics the eyes of fire ants

The curved cameras capture a wide field of view with nearly infinite depth perception

Like an insect's eyes, the cameras are covered in multiple tiny lenses

CNN  — 

The next generation of digital cameras could show us how bugs see the world.

Researchers have created a digital camera that imitates the bulging eyes of insects, specifically fire ants and bark beetles. The cameras can capture a 160-degree-wide field of view with nearly infinite depth of field, meaning all areas of the photo will be in focus. The tiny domes are covered in 180 microlenses, each capturing a unique angle of the subject.

The team of insect-admiring engineers and builders set out to make a man-made camera that recreated how bugs see the world.

“We feel that the insect world provides extremely impressive examples of engineering – in the vision, flight, power and sensing systems. I, personally, have been intrigued by the insect eye for as long as I can remember,” said professor John Rogers of the University of Illinois, who worked on the camera.

What would be the practical use of a bug-eye camera?

While still in the early stages, this technology could be used to create high-resolution surveillance cameras that capture a large, expansive scene, all in sharp focus. It would also have interesting practical applications for endoscopic cameras, the small devices doctors use to peek inside the human body.

“Nature provides a remarkable diversity of ideas for designs in cameras,” said Rogers. “We think that it will be interesting to explore some of these, because in many cases, the concepts offer unique and powerful capabilities in imaging.”

Prototype of a digital camera inspired by the compound eyes of insects.

Traditional digital cameras have a flat sensor and a single camera lens. The working prototypes of