The team have developed a camera that can generate a four dimensional image and also has an extra-wide field of view.
Donald Dansereau, a postdoctoral fellow in electrical engineering, said: "We want to consider what would be the right camera for a robot that drives or delivers packages by air. We're great at making cameras for humans but do robots need to see the way humans do? Probably not ...
"A 2D photo is like a peephole because you can't move your head around to gain more information about depth, translucency or light scattering. Looking through a window, you can move and, as a result, identify features like shape, transparency and shininess."
And the engineers believe the new camera will help self-driving vehicles judge the distances of moving objects better.
Gordon Wetzstein, assistant professor of electrical engineering, added: "It could enable various types of artificially intelligent technology to understand how far away objects are, whether they're moving and what they've made of.
"This system could be helpful in any situation where you have limited space and you want the computer to understand the entire world around it."
Dansereau added: "Many research groups are looking at what we can do with light fields but no one has great cameras. We have off-the-shelf cameras that are designed for consumer photography.
"This is the first example I know of a light field camera built specifically for robotics and augmented reality. I'm stoked to put it into peoples' hands and to see what they can do with it."