Many android device owners might have a preference for a flat, flush camera on their smartphone, while others may not care as much. If you enjoy seeing this particular design quirk on a smartphone, such as on Sony's Xperia Z series and the Blu Vivo Air, you'll likely be glad to hear that future smartphones may no longer need a camera hump. A team at the University of Utah headed up by electrical and computer engineering professor Rajesh Menon has developed a method to create a flat lens that can bend light the same way a thicker or curved one would be able to. Bending light to a single point is one of the most basic components of creating an image, meaning that this tech could find its way into cameras in the form of incredibly thin lenses. In the smartphone world, this would translate to less need for a camera hump, if any at all.
Peng Wang and Nabil Mohamma, two of Menon's students, got together with him to develop the prototype and publish a paper about it in the Friday, February 12 issue of Scientific Reports, entitled "Chromatic-Aberration-Corrected Diffractive Lenses for Ultra-Broadband Focusing". Rather than old-school refraction, the light-bending technique used by curved lenses, the new lens design uses a technique called diffraction. In refraction, the light is reflected throughout the structure or lens and bends. In diffraction, the lens or structure contains microscopic structures that can put the light through the same bends and changes using much less space.
Lenses using this design can be made from almost any translucent material, such as glass or plastic, allowing for a large number of possibilities in regards to design and production. According to Menon, "Instead of the lens having a curvature, it can be very flat so you get completely new design opportunities for imaging systems like the ones in your mobile phone,". Essentially, this means that camera humps may be done away with entirely. In most cases, they're present because the camera's lens must have room to curve, meaning it must be somewhat thick. If this technology is easy enough to replicate that it finds mainstream success, the camera hump as a concept may become exclusive to phones with high-end photography capabilities or with unique, purposeful designs that call for them.