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Robotics

Artificial insect eyes

Credit: DARIO FLOREANO

A multi-lens artificial eye that can adapt to light mimics the eyes of arthropods such as the fruitfly.

Whereas human eyes — and most cameras — use a single lens, the compound eyes of arthropods have hundreds of light-sensing structures that are arranged in a hemisphere. Dario Floreano at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and his colleagues have created an artificial compound eye by stacking microlenses on top of silicon photodetectors and printed circuit boards, cutting the components so that they can curve around into a half cylinder. The artificial eye gives a wide field of view, but the prototype (pictured with an arthropod model for scale) weighs 1.75 grams and is about the size of a crab's eye. Compound eyes made from lenses embedded in soft polymers have already been reported, but the integrated circuitry in this new eye has the advantage of fast and programmable image processing, allowing it to sense and adapt to changes in lighting conditions.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1219068110 (2013)

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Artificial insect eyes. Nature 497, 539 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/497539a

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