The soldier of the future might be able to see in all directions at the same time. Researchers at MIT have developed a fabric made of fibers that can "take pictures" of its surroundings.
The individual fibers are composed of two rolled-up semiconducting glass layers, coated in an insulator. When light interacts with the semiconductor, the current changes through the fibers, thus providing a way of measuring how much light is hitting the fabric.
The resulting data can be run through a computer to create a "photograph" of whatever is near the fabric. The color of the light can be determined by comparing one semiconductor sheet's data with the other.
All of that data eventually becomes a full scale photo of the fabric's surroundings. The researchers tested their fabric camera, too, reporting their results in Nano Letters. The material could take a photo of an 800 micron smiley face.
Further development could lead to larger fabric samples, or even military uniforms that can record what's happening all around a soldier. The possible applications of this are pretty amazing.