Every now and then, somebody comes up with a radically new way to improve technology and do something different. One such example is the Flexible Sheet Camera that researchers at the Laboratory for Unconventional Electronics at Columbia University have developed. Rather than a little handheld box with a single lens and some sort of zoom optics, this super-thin concept camera lets you adjust the field of view by simply bending it:
The secret behind this is an array of elastic lenses that become wider as the array is bent, changing the focal length and removing the gaps that would be created when using solid lenses.
While this may seem like a gimmick for now, flexible sheet cameras can be manufactured extremely thin and, one day, may fit into your wallet among your credit cards. Another exciting use case for this technology may be taking pictures around an object (i.e. a pole, or an entire car) without any blind spots.
The prototype camera in the video consists of a 32×32 lens array made from silicone rubber, whereas the focal length of each silicone lens varies with the local curvature of the sheet.
More information is available here:
A Flexible Camera: A Radically Different Approach to Imaging
CAVE | Projects: Flexible Sheet Cameras With Elastic Optics