Columbia University’s Flexible Sheet Camera Creates Some Mind-Bending Images (VIDEO)

Researchers at the Columbia University Computer Vision Laboratory are pursuing a radically different approach to photography with the design of optics and sensors applied to a large, thin flexible sheet. Rather than the conventional approach of taking photographs from a single point in space, this camera would enable image capture from any surface—regardless of shape.

The unique design involves an array of elastic lenses that change shape and focal length when deformed in a manner that mitigates the anti–aliasing effects that have occurred with previous attempts at bendable optics. As a result, anti aliasing is achieved passively without any user input.

Team leader Professor Shree K. Nayar explains, “While the camera industry has made remarkable progress in shrinking the camera to a tiny device with ever–increasing image quality, we believe there are numerous applications for cameras that are large in format but very thin and highly flexible.”

The project, supported by the Office of Naval Research, offers interesting implications for capturing seamless images with wide fields of view and unusual perspectives that cannot be made with conventional cameras—especially if such a system can be affordably manufactured. Time will tell.