Flat lenses – oozing potential

Lenses used to be curved. Not in the future thanks to Harvard scientists: https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news-events/press-releases/flat-lens-offers-perfect-image and http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl302516v.

Ht http://nextbigfuture.com/ for making me aware.

Flat antennas aren’t new per se, phased array radio antennas have been around decades, but this is the first optical flat lens I am aware of. Theirs is pretty damned clever!

They are already looking at applications such as flat microscope objectives, and have probably covered most of the biggest opportunities. But just in case, and researchers do occasionally miss some opportunities, here are a few for free:

Kite telescopes

NASA are currently flying a 747-based telescope, chucking out huge quantities of water vapour into the high atmosphere, contributing to global warming to take over from their space shuttles. Ironic that such a warmist organisation should do that, but there we go. A large flat surface telescope could presumably be made into a high altitude kite, albeit one that needs a little engineering. And it wouldn’t add to stratospheric water vapour, or even add CO2.

High altitude telescopes could be used for ground imaging as well as space of course, and there would be many commercially viable businesses from this root, as well as military surveillance of course.

Smart glasses and contact lenses

I would like a pair of glasses that record everything I look at. Flat surface cameras would allow this. Glasses are much bigger than my pupil, so they could allow much higher resolution, so I’d be able to see at very high magnification without having to use binoculars. I’d also be able to see infrared, microwaves, see where the strongest cellphone signal is, enable a whole new kind of fashion using different spectra, add to augmented reality hugely by using the infrared channel to show real as well as digital auras. Wow, can’t wait for these! I am playing Assassin’s Creed again, and this is Eagle Sense and then some.

Of course, active contact lenses could also use this tech and offer intuitive optional zoom. I would see the world as normal, but by trying to focus on something in the distance, it would zoom in automatically. There have only been a few updates to my original active contact lens idea from 1991, http://www.futurizon.com/inventions/activecontactlensmay91.pdf but this will be another generation for its 21st anniversary.

Credit card cameras

The smartphone is causing the decline of standalone digital cameras. Digital jewellery will cause the decline of smartphones, but one of the things we still needed them for is the camera. Not any more. A simple credit card camera would work fine. Or maybe even a wristband could be used. Flat cameras will hasten the decline of smartphones.

Smart posters

If they can be printed cheaply, cameras could be built into much of the urban environment. Any poster could have video capture and storage built in, powered by solar, with some comms added too. What and who it sees could direct what it displays. Sure, you can do all that and then some with augmented reality, but augmented reality is a whole load of additional functionality that lives happily alongside other stuff, and doesn’t necessarily replace everything. Posters could be the next wave of Big Brother or the next wave of advertising. Or both.

Teletubby T-shirts revisited

When the Teletubbies were still new, I suggested that we’d be able to make clothes with video panels in using polymer screens. Teletubby t-shirts. Flat panel cameras would allow these to be two way. They could display images but also act as a cameras. They could link to cameras in other people’s t-shirts. You could have a camera on your back that links to the video image on your front, making you appear to have a big hole through you.

Thought recognition and smart microwaves

Wired carries another interesting article on brain wave recognition of PINs via the headsets used to play computer games. Old stuff in idea terms perhaps but it’s always nice to see practice catching up. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/08/brainwave-hacking/

It seems obvious that this could work nicely with the flat lens idea. A flat surface could image the electrical activity in the brain from a greater distance instead of having to use a helmet.

It would also be possible to put flat cameras on the inside surfaces of microwave ovens, looking at the food to see where the hot spots and cold spots are, so that the microwave beams could be directed better to the areas needing heated.

I think that’s enough for now.

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