A lens-stippled glass dome that looks a little like something you’d find on a mutant Dalek in Doctor Who — that’s one way of describing an experimental digital camera designed to function like a bug’s eye by capturing high-resolution panoramas and continuous depth of field.

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as the University of Colorado at Boulder wanted to mimic that sort of imaging system, one that could marry wide-angle field of view with enhanced motion perception and infinite depth of field, and all of that without optical distortions. Easier said than done: The trouble with existing digital technology is that it tends to be both orthogonal and inflexible. “In biology, everything is curvy,” quipped one of the project’s scientists, John Rogers, to science journal Nature.

In a human eye, a single lens focuses light onto the retina, which harbors individual photoreceptors (the “rods” and “cones” you…

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