Researchers have just created a bug-sized action cam for science

Scientists have now linked gopros to a variety of animals for research purposes – but what about the smallest members of the animal kingdom? Inspired by the biology of the bug’s eye, researchers from the University of Washington have developed a camera that is small enough to wear some bugs, which weighs only 250 milligrams (that’s .009 ounces). Modeling the bug camera after the insect approach can both help create technology for small robotics, as well as open up avenues for entomology research.

The study, published today in Science Robotics, Equipping two types of Beetles with camera backpacks, the same camera system creates a smaller robot to wear. To create a camera that the similar Beetle is known to be capable of carrying only half the weight, the team had to take inspiration from the bugs and surpass the smaller cameras used in smartphones.

Mark Stone / University of Washington

Mark Stone / University of Washington

Mark Stone / University of Washington

Mark Stone / University of Washington

As Sauer Fuller, co-author of the study, explained, some flies have a “high-resolution” center and are turned their heads if they need to be looked at in more detail. The tiny camera backpack is equipped with a mechanical arm that removes the camera. The design allows the bug’s camera to capture higher resolution images than a wide-angle lens with less power.

A few more changes are needed along with the moving arm to save energy to keep the heavy battery of the bug off. The camera transmits video via Bluetooth to a smartphone, but black-and-white video is only recorded at one to five frames per second. An accelerometer only triggers the camera when the bug is running, increasing the small battery from two hours of runtime to six.

The researchers said the beetles were still able to move freely, with tree side and gravel navigate, and survived for more than a year after the experiment.

As a great idea for bug photographers, the group’s goal is to use the experiment to create smaller robotics. After successfully equipping the Beatles, the team created the smallest wireless vision ground, power autonomous robot using the camera to navigate. Uses vibration to move bug-sized robots. These vibrations proved too difficult for the camera, and the robot had to be programmed to stop movement before any images could be spread. Despite the need to stop, the team said the bug-inspired bot is faster than previous robotics that use vibrations to move.

In addition to the robot already being tested, researchers hope the camera could be used to study insects and catch insects. Co-lead author Vikram Iyer says, “This is the first time we see a first-person perspective from the rear as we tour the Beetle.” “There are many questions you can explore, such as how does bit respond to different stimuli in the environment? But also, insects can cross rocky environments, which makes it really challenging for robots to do this scale. So this system can help us by viewing or collecting samples from hard-navigating space. “

This group of research plans to mitigate some of the privacy risks involved in creating a small camera in the public domain that can go almost anywhere with the permission of additional research. Ali Najafi, co-lead author of Iyer and Fuller, was joined by veteran writer and associate professor Shyam Gollakota and co-author Johannes James. The project is funded by a fellowship from Microsoft and the National Science Foundation.

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