GoPro Beetles Camera Backpack
Photo credit: Mark Stone / University of Washington
University of Washington researchers have developed a GoPro for beetles, or in other words, a small wireless steerable camera that can also ride aboard an insect, giving everyone a chance to see an Ant-Man view of the world. This tiny camera streams live video to a smartphone at 1-5 fps and sits on a mechanical arm that can pivot 60°. Viewers would then be able to capture a high-resolution, panoramic shot or track a moving object while expending a minimal amount of energy. Read more for a video and additional information.



Most small cameras, like those found on smartphones, use quite a bit of power to capture wide-angle, high-resolution photos, and this wouldn’t be feasible for use on an insect scale. So, to mimic an animal’s vision, researchers utilized a tiny, ultra-low-power black-and-white camera that can sweep across a field of view using a mechanical arm, which moves when the team applies a high voltage. If no additional power is supplied, the arm stays at that angle for about a minute before relaxing back to its original position.

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Similar to cameras, vision in animals requires a lot of power. It’s less of a big deal in larger creatures like humans, but flies are using 10 to 20% of their resting energy just to power their brains, most of which is devoted to visual processing. To help cut the cost, some flies have a small, high-resolution region of their compound eyes. They turn their heads to steer where they want to see with extra clarity, such as for chasing prey or a mate. This saves power over having high resolution over their entire visual field,” said co-author Sawyer Fuller, a UW assistant professor of mechanical engineering.