Engineers Introduce First Ever Flat Fisheye Camera Lens

The lens could be integrated into smartphones and laptops to provide panoramic views without cumbersome add-ons.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Although fisheye lenses are great at capturing panoramic views, they are inherently bulky and often costly to produce. But what if you could get the same effect from a flat lens? That would bring down the size and costs, indeed.


Engineers at MIT and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell have developed the first-ever wide-angle lens that is completely flat and produces clear 180-degree panoramic images.

“This design comes as somewhat of a surprise, because some have thought it would be impossible to make a metalens with an ultra-wide-field view,” said in a statement Juejun Hu, associate professor in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

“The fact that this can actually realize fisheye images is completely outside expectation. This isn’t just light-bending — it’s mind-bending.”

The new fisheye lens consists of a type of “metalens." It is a very thin material patterned with microscopic features that work together to manipulate light. It is produced using a single flat millimeter-thin piece of glass.

This glass is covered on one side with tiny structures that scatter incoming light to produce panoramic images. In that sense, it sort of works the same way a traditional fisheye lens would, only it does so by remaining flat and thin to keep its size down.

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For now, the lens functions in the infrared part of the spectrum. However, the researchers claim it could be altered to function just as well using visible light.

What applications does such a lens have? Well for starters it could be built-in smartphones and laptops to offer a panoramic view for the devices without the need for cumbersome and bulky add ons.

Finally, the researchers also believe it could be integrated into "medical imaging devices such as endoscopes, as well as in virtual reality glasses, wearable electronics, and other computer vision devices." The future seems bright for this new invention!

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