Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

An Eye on Everything

Optical fibers in a sphere could lead to clothing that “sees”

What would it be like to have eyes in the back, sides, and top of your head? Researchers at MIT have built a spherical optical system that can record images from all directions. Photons strike the sphere’s network of 900-micrometer­wide polymer and glass composite fibers and penetrate a transparent cladding to a photosensitive semiconductor material at the fiber’s core. An algorithm analyzes the resulting signal and constructs an omnidirectional image; it can also pinpoint the direction of a light beam based on where it entered and exited the sphere. For now, the prototype is used mainly to test materials that can at least crudely discern surrounding objects and thus might be useful in soldiers’ uniforms. The researchers are working on algorithms that build clear images even if the sensors take unusual shapes, as they would when integrated into clothing. Future applications could include surveillance, with a sphere replacing multiple cameras. Ayman Abouraddy of MIT’s Research Lab of Electronics says his team, directed by materials scientist Yoel Fink, expects to have a prototype of an optical-fiber mesh–using fibers 200 micrometers wide–next year.

This sphere of optical fibers, 30 centimeters in diameter, senses light from all directions; software then builds a 3-D image. (Courtesy of Greg Hren)
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.