This Flexible Sheet Camera Captures Images of What It's Wrapped Around

Images by Columbia Computer Vision Laboratory, 2016/Columbia Engineering

Bored of taking photographs from a single point in space? This experimental new camera can be wrapped around objects to capture images in completely different ways.

A team of researchers from Columbia University’s Computer Vision Laboratory has developed this new device which shuns the conventional form of the camera to create a thin and deformable light-sensing sheet. By flexing the sheet it’s possible to dramatically widen its field of view, capturing larger swathes of reality as an image, whilst also allowing the device to be wrapped around an object.

The device is made up of a series of lenses positioned over a sheet of deformable silicone. But the researchers found that it wasn’t as easy as simply placing regular lenses over the surface—because, as the material is deformed, the spots that are captured begin to overlap in complex ways. The result is that the system simply misses parts of the field of view, that no amount of post-processing can recover.


Instead, the team developed a system where each lens is itself elastic, changing shape in response to the curvature of the device. That allows it to always capture the full image, without the need for extra mechanical or electrical systems. It seems to work rather well. In the gif above, you can see the device being flexed in an arc, alongside the resulting images it manages to capture at each point. Though the views are a little blurry, you can see that the field of view widens greatly.

Now, the team wants to try and create smaller versions of the device which could be used in the field. Speaking to TechXplore, the team suggests that it could be possible to create a pocket-sized version that photographers could wrap around strangely shaped objects to capture images that may have been impossible to produce in the past.

[CAVE via TechXplore]

Contributing Editor at Gizmodo. An ex-engineer writing about science and technology.

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So, it’s basically a glorified, flexible flatbed scanner.