Apr
12
2006

Thanks for the tip, dragonfly


Dragonfly: Courtesy Charles Lam

The common housefly or even an octopus might inspire the next generation of optical gadgets. Bioengineers are looking to the animal kingdom for ideas for the next high-tech cameras, motion detectors, and navigation devices. It does not come as any surprise that bioengineers wish to replicate the advanced light catching structures in animal eyes. Stated in an article from AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) “natural selection has produced at least ten animal vision systems, each tailored to fit the specific needs of its owner. Eyes for different species are adapted for seeing in the day or night, short or long distances, with wide or narrow fields of view, ect.”

In some cases, animal systems are less complex and more efficient when compared to synthetic counterparts. Nanotech researcher Luke Lee at the University of Berkeley with college Robert Szema are trying to better understand and imitate animal eyes in hopes of creating the next cutting edge optical gadget. Lee and Szema described their attempts in the November 18 issue of the journal Science. Now lets gain a better understanding about animal eye structure.

Animals have two main types of vision systems: camera-type eyes and compound eyes. Humans have camera-type eyes, as do many fish, birds and reptiles. Camera-type eyes utilize a single lens focusing images onto a light detector termed a retina. Lee and other researchers have only created gadgets using the principles of the camera-type eye. However, scientists are getting closer in constructing gadgets based on compound eyes.

Compound eyes, such as in dragonflies, use up to 29,000 lenslets per eye. Lenslets or ommatidia function independent of each other producing remarkable fast-motion detection. Biology professor and dragonfly-vision expert Robert Olberg at Union College in Schenectady, New York stated, “The dragonfly’s field of vision is actually 360 degrees.”

Lee has gone as far as creating 180-degree hemispheres with ommatidia, like the dragonfly, though the hemispheres might not display all the possible pictures. Lee hopes to bond two 180-degree hemispheres to create a 360-degree view. Practical uses could be outstanding surveillance cameras or perhaps scoping the inside of our digestive tract. Would you like to own a gadget having 360-degree vision? If so, what would it be?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

majicbeans's picture
majicbeans says:

people have the perfect sight the do all sorts of smart stuff

I think to have 360* vision would not allow to do all sorts of smart stuff, but could see if something is about to make a tasty meal outta mr.360*

posted on Fri, 05/12/2006 - 3:05pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options