Ancient creatures inspire new record-breaking technology

Inspired by ancient creepy crawlies living in the ocean, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a record-breaking miniature camera that takes sharp pictures over a staggering distance.

The camera’s depth of field means it can shoot with crystal clarity from a distance of 3 centimeters to just over a mile (1.7 km). Using a computer algorithm, researchers were able to correct aberrations and sharpen objects across the entire depth of field, NIST announced.

Such depth of field means better images when you need to keep subjects near and far in focus, including cityscapes or groups of organisms in a wide field of view, NIST said.

Researchers have created a record camera based on ancient trilobites.

Trilobite eyes: Trilobites — one very distant compared to horseshoe crabs – ruled the world hundreds of millions of years ago, roaming the primordial oceans armed with their compound eyes – some of the first arthropods to have them.

They were extraordinarily successful animals, thriving through 300 million years of Earth’s history and evolving in 20,000 unique species so far identified.

One trilobite in particular, Dalmanitina socialishad a particularly impressive vision.

Dalmanitin had bifocal eyes, with two lenses that bent light at different angles. This gave them great depth of field, allowing them to not only see nearby prey, but to keep an eye on the horizon to make sure they or they did not become prey.

“To our knowledge, this type of compound-eye visual system is unique to Dalmanitina socialis“, wrote the researchers in their Nature Communications Study.

Design for depth of field : NIST researchers Amit Agrawal and Henri Lezec, along with colleagues from the University of Maryland and Nanjing University, adapted the ancient arthropod’s approach to create their record camera.

The camera can take sharp photos in an incredibly large depth of field – from three centimeters to just over a mile.

The team created tiny lenses called “metallenses”, which were dotted with millions of tiny nanometer-sized pillars. The shape and angle of these pillars focused light in two different ways, making the metal lenses work as both a macro lens (for close-ups) and a telephoto lens.

But the camera would blur objects between its two extremes. To overcome this, the researchers turned to a neural network AI, which they trained to recognize and correct where the tiny pillars are flawed in their work, New Atlas explainedso that it can correct blur, color aberration and other optical problems.

Despite being extinct 200 million years ago, we can still learn things from these ancient creatures – with a little help from modern computers.

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