Questions for ‘This crumb-sized camera uses artificial intelligence to get big results’

a crumb-sized camera lens rests on the tip of someone's finger, beside a magnified image of the square lens

The new, miniaturized camera lens sits on the tip of a finger (left). It bends light with 1.6 million tiny metal rods instead of curved glass. The pattern formed by the rods is visible in a magnified image of the lens (right).

Princeton University

To accompany This crumb-sized camera uses artificial intelligence to get big results’ 


Before Reading:

  1. Examine the camera on the back of a mobile phone. Identify the camera lens area. Sketch what you see. How many different parts are visible? Of what material might the various parts be composed? Examine the surfaces of each part closely. Do they appear flat or curved? Indicate on your sketch which part you think is the camera lens.
  2. Consider this sentence: Mario Kart is a video game that simulates the driving experience. In this sentence, what does the word “simulate” mean? Imagine you are a scientist who wants to compare how 1,000 different tire-tread patterns perform on wet roads. You want results quickly. In one sentence, explain how a computer simulation might help you answer problems that need lots of tests by trial and error. How might you combine computer-simulation data with data from real-life experiments to get fast and reliable results?

During Reading:

  1. List the two main parts of a camera. In a single sentence, state what each part does. Which part has gotten smaller over the last few decades?
  2. How does glass with a curved surface affect any light passing through the glass?
  3. What is meant by the term “metasurface”? Is a nanometer larger or smaller than a meter?
  4. According to this article, a metamaterial’s “structure” determines its effect on light. Give three examples of “structure.”
  5. Identify the two key challenges Felix Heide and his team tackled in the design of their metasurface camera. 
  6. Heide and his team wrote a computer program that “simulated light traveling through a lens and the picture it created.” How did this computer simulation improve their camera?
  7. How big is the lens of this new camera in cubic millimeters?

After Reading:

  1. As a class, discuss potential applications for this technology in each of the following scientific fields: medical, environmental and robotics. Then, on your own, pick an application. Design an invention using this technology. Draw or describe your invention. How would your invention be used? How might this invention help people? What size would your invention have to be to function?
  2. How valuable do you consider metasurface technology? What concerns might someone have about this type of technology becoming mainstream?