2Pi Optics unveils novel fisheye camera

2Pi Optics has unveiled a new kind of fisheye camera based on what it calls metasurface optics.

The company plans to show off the tech at CES 2024, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas next week.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company said it has created the world’s premier high-resolution fisheye sensor based on optical metalens technology. The tech means that design engineers could further downsize cameras in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), AR/VR, UAVs, robotics, and industrial applications.

2Pi’s proprietary technology replaces bulky and costly conventional wide-FOV lenses, which are typically composed of multiple stacked lens pieces, with a single, thin, flat metalens.

The surge in camera-based optical sensor technologies is driving 2Pi Optics’ work. The company’s patented technology extends the metalens field of view (FOV) to nearly 180 degrees without compromising imaging quality, outperforming traditional wide-FOV refractive optics in crucial aspects such as size, weight, performance, and cost-effectiveness.

At the core of the work lies the replacement of cumbersome and pricey conventional wide-FOV lenses, comprised of multiple stacked lens pieces, with a single, slim, flat metalens. This tech enables the creation of ultra-compact, high-performance optical imagers and sensors. They could be used in applications such as consumer electronics, automotive sensing, industrial inspection and biomedical diagnosis.

3D artistic illustration of 2Pi Optics’ wide-field-of-view metalens capturing a 180° panorama of MIT’s Killian Court and producing a high-resolution monochromatic flat image.

Established in 2021 as an offshoot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2Pi’s founders have consistently pushed metalens technology—a wafer-thin material imbued with microscopic features that manipulate light in precise ways. The company’s research has been patented.

Juejun Hu, a materials science and engineering professor at MIT and CEO of 2Pi, said in a statement, “Today’s refractive fisheye lenses, which are used to capture wide-angle, panoramic images, have hit a design roadblock.”

Hu added, “They require between six and twelve stacked lens components, which limits their compactness and affordability. Our design, in contrast, outperforms conventional refractive, wide-FOV optics in all areas: size, weight, performance, and cost. Better still, 2Pi’s metalenses can be manufactured at wafer scale in conventional semiconductor foundries.”

Diverse applications

2Pi’s metalens design outperforms conventional refractive, wide-FOV optics in all areas: size, weight, performance, and cost.

AR/VR headsets: These cameras facilitate environment mapping, hand/eye tracking, gesture, and facial recognition. The diminutive size and weight are particularly advantageous for wearable devices, and their expansive field of view emulates human vision, heightening user immersion.

Automotive sensing: 2Pi’s technology reduces the number of sensors required for full 360-degree coverage, enhancing the reliability and precision of ADAS while lowering computational overhead.

Robotics and drones: Lightweight, high-resolution imaging and 3-D depth sensors enhance payload capacity and augment target identification accuracy.

Industrial inspection: Miniature machine vision cameras with high performance and low power consumption offer flexible deployment, such as borescope inspection cameras.

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