Researchers craft curved, eyelike electronic camera

Drawing inspiration from the simple design of the human eye, Illinois engineers have invented a new kind of eyelike camera that avoids some pitfalls of ordinary cameras and could lead to a host of novel devices based on flexible electronics.The electronic eye made by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University collects light on a curved screen resembling a retina, in contrast to digital cameras that use lenses to focus images on a flat sheet of light detectors. A curved surface reduces the need for multiple lenses and cuts down on distortion that comes from projecting the light on a flat surface.That allows for a compact camera with low distortion and a wide field of view, much like a natural eye, according to a study published in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature.Making curved arrays of electronics is far tougher than it sounds, experts say. Until now, nearly all complex electronics have been etched on flat wafers, with even slight curves posing a steep engineering and production challenge.