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Researchers Create Electronic Lens That Works Better Than the Human Eye

A new development could soon
transform the design of almost every optical instrument in use today, including
cameras, eyeglasses and telescopes. Uniting new developments in artificial
muscle and flat lens technologies, a team of scientists at the Harvard John A.
Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have made a new lens
that works a lot like the human eye.

Not only is the device proficient
of focusing in real-time thanks to an elastomer muscle, it features none of the
bulk of a traditional spherical lens. It can even do some things the human eye cannot,
including adjusting for astigmatism and image shift, two variables that lead to
blurry vision.

All of this is thanks to a previous
technology a team of some of the same scientists developed. The flat lens
design this new artificial eye takes benefit of is called a metalens. It uses small
nanostructures to focus light. In this way, it's able to focus the complete
visible light spectrum at a single point. By contrast, traditional lenses use numerous
elements to achieve the same feat, which is why they get so large.

Before this recent
breakthrough, the SEAS team says they were only able to bbuilt metalenses that
were "the size of a piece of glitter." By contrast, their recent
invention is bigger at about one centimeter in diameter Larger, in this case,
is better because it makes it more practical to use the technology in a host of
modern applications. With cameras, for instance, a lens needs to be big enough
to cover a sensor so that there's no vignetting.

As with any
new technology
, it'll likely be years before metalenses make their way to
consumer devices. Though, their potential is evident. Combined with even
smaller computer chips, something like virtual and augmented reality headsets
could become small and
comfortable enough
where the technology becomes attractive to the average

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