As their paper “Xenos peckii vision inspires an ultrathin digital camera” suggests, the researchers got their inspiration from paper wasps’ endoparasite Xenos peckii, whose compound eyes are unlike those of most insects and crustaceans. Distributed at the periphery of its compound eyes, each of the endoparasite’s eyelets (or optical units) consists of a relatively large convex facet lens backed with over a hundred photoreceptor cells.
Through their 3D spatial distribution and orientation, each such optical unit detects part of the overall field-of-view FOV, but with improved spatial resolution and sensitivity compared to other compound eyes only sporting one or few photoreceptor cells per eyelet.
Now, in order to translate these attributes into a compact physical design, the researchers sandwiched multiple concave microprisms and microlenses combined with pinhole arrays on a flat image sensor. In this setup, the light path for each microprism playing the role of an eyelet is focused across multiple pixels playing the role of the photoreceptors).