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Flexible Wallpaper Camera produces 360 degree image

Scientists at the Columbia University’s Computer Vision Laboratory have invented a prototype of a flexible wallpaper camera that can wrap around objects and produce 360 degree images.

The very thin camera works just like a regular camera, but even better. And it doesn’t look anything like a camera.

wallpaper camera
Flexible wallpaper camera prototype (Image credit: Columbia Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia University, 2016)

“We are exploring a radically different approach to imaging. We believe there are numerous applications for cameras that large in format, but very thin and highly flexible,” said project head Shree Nayar, a professor of computer science at Columbia.

The camera is so thin that it enables the user to spread it out like paper or cloth.

The “wallpaper cameras” are a bit closer to the human eye and, as such, calling it a camera would be a little confusing. At present the device is just a prototype. However, the researchers believe one day this camera will revolutionize the way we think of capturing an image or video.

wallpaper camera
Flexible lens array. (Credit: Columbia Computer Vision Laboratory, 2016)

How the wallpaper camera works

One of the biggest hurdles to creating this type of camera is that regular lenses overlap when the surface is uneven. To overcome this problem, the team developed an array of elastic lenses. In this system, each lens, rather than the whole piece is elastic. This enables the lenses to change shape when the device bends, allowing lenses to capture a full image without the help of extra mechanical system.

wallpaper camera
(Image credit: Columbia Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia University, 2016)

The team also said their work can be combined with a flexible sensor array to collect a complete sheet of camera.

“We have presented the design of a lens array that enables a new class of flexible sheet cameras,” the authors write.

“If such cameras can be made a low cost (ideally like a roll of plastic sheet), they can be used to image the world in ways that would be difficult to achieve using one or more conventional cameras,” they wrote on Columbia’s website.