The technology we use to take pictures has changed a lot over the years, but the designs of camera lenses have remained fairly simple. Now, scientists from Columbia University are re-imagining the way we capture images with a "flexible sheet camera" [PDF] that uses elastic lenses to wrap around curved surfaces.

As reported by Gizmodo, the team of researchers from Columbia University's Computer Vision Lab first intended to build their device by attaching regular lenses to a sheet of silicone. They soon realized this route would pose some serious roadblocks: Bending the camera's flexible base would overlap the lenses' fields of view, producing missing spaces in the final picture.

To fix this, the team set out to create flexible lenses that could change shape with the rest of the device. The result was a new type of camera that captures images from multiple points in space.

As you can see from the video above, this technology has multiple potential applications. Strips of the camera sheet could be wrapped around cars to eliminate blind spots. Amateur photographers using a pocket-sized model could widen the perspective of an image by simply bending the camera. And as virtual reality continues to gain popularity in the mainstream, it's easy to imagine the camera as an alternate to the devices currently being used to capture 360-degree imagery.

Header/banner images courtesy of Columbia University via YouTube.

[h/t Gizmodo]