A new biometric eye design has been prototyped through research funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme of the European Commission.
The Curved Artificial Compound Eye (CurvACE), which is compound – as opposed to single-lens – and at the same time curved, was developed by researchers from CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, EPFL at Lausanne, Fraunhofer Institute at Jena and Université de Tuebingen. It features a panoramic, undistorted field of view in a very thin package, and is ideal for applications such as collision avoidance, distance estimation and landing.
Most animal species have compound eyes, which consist of a dense mosaic of tiny eyes – as opposed to humans with our single-lens vision. While the resolution is lower than that of single-lens eyes, compound eyes can provide much larger fields of view, whilst being very thin at the same time.
The CurvACE provides panoramic, hemispherical field of view with the same resolution as a fruitfly while being less than 1mm thick. It can also extract images three times faster than the fruitfly and is made up of neuromorphic photoreceptors that allow motion perception in a wide range of environments from a sunny day to moon light.
The CurvACE eye possesses embedded and programmable low-power signal processing functions, so it can be integrated into a range of applications where motion detection is important, such as mobile robots and micro air vehicles, home automation, surveillance, medical instruments, and smart clothing.
Engineering a miniature artificial compound eye is challenging, say the researchers, because it requires both the photo-receptive and optical components to be accurately aligned on a curved surface. Previous attempts have been made to create the eye, but they were never able to detect fast motion in a large range of illuminations as insects do, until this design method was developed.