Biomimicry is a smart way to solve tough problems. Why go to the trouble of thinking up a whole new solution when you can see how living creatures have done it first, using approaches refined over millions of years of evolution?
One area where biomimicry is yielding fascinating results is in the field of optics and machine vision. While our cameras and ways of thinking about sight have largely been informed by the human visual system, cutting-edge research is looking to insects to find new tricks for everything from depth perception to colour analysis.
Here are five of the most exciting prospects.
Bees: colour accuracy
The honeybee has three extra eyes on the top of its head. These eyes, known as ocelli, have traditionally been thought to assist in the bee in flight. Research by Australian scientists, however, has shown the eyes play a pivotal role in enabling the bee to accurately assess colour, calibrating for constant changes in ambient light conditions to correctly identify potential food sources.
By mapping the way the ocelli feed information into the key-colour processing areas of the bee brain, where it is integrated with information from the insect’s two main compound eyes, the scientists found a “biologically validated mathematical solution” that could “be readily implemented into artificial systems”. This discovery on colour constancy can be implemented into camera imaging systems to enable more accurate colour interpretation.
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