Researchers have created a camera that mimics the human eye, but has the added feature of zooming.
The "eyeball camera" - more officially dubbed a curvilinear camera - was created by scientists from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois in the US.
One version is the size of a coin and cheap to make, but takes crisp images at up to 3.5x optical zoom. Other variations could allow for an even greater zoom, the researchers said.
"We were inspired by the human eye, but we wanted to go beyond the human eye," said Yonggang Huang, of Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Our goal was to develop something simple that can zoom and capture good images, and we've achieved that."
While "eyeball cameras" already exist, they lack variable zoom because they use rigid sensors. This camera uses a thin, flexible membrane for the sensor and lens, which sit on water.
To focus the image and zoom, the researchers move the water to change to curve of the flexible membranes.
"Initially both detector and lens are flat," the researchers explained. "Beneath both the membranes of the detector and the simple lens are chambers filled with water. By extracting water from the detector's chamber, the detector surface becomes a concave hemisphere."
The camera tech should find its way into consumer electronics, as well as more specialised fields such as night-vision surveillance, robotic vision and endoscopic imaging.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk