Seeing Triple


The Economist

Artificial vision

Seeing triple

Compound eyes like those of insects may help drones find their way around

The eyes have it

GIVING sight to robots is an important goal, but a tricky one. Most attempts use cameras that produce the sort of image a human being is used to, and then apply computing power to simplify it (for example, by searching for the edges of objects) in ways that tell a robot what it needs to know (ie, do not blunder into that edge).

Dario Floreano of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne, has, however, taken a different approach. If simplicity is what is required, then simplicity is what needs to be supplied in the first place. Dr Floreano went to the natural world to look at a group of animals—the insects—that have often inspired robotmakers, with a view to copying the way that they organise vision. As he and his colleagues report in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the result is an artificial version of an insect’s compound eye. Read more.