Researchers develop miniature camera that can even be carried by an insect

When it comes to taking pictures or recording videos, action cameras have proven to perform well in both tasks, where each year companies in the sector add new functionalities to these, also making them smaller in order to facilitate their use and do not obstruct our experience.

In this sense, a live streaming wireless camera was created by a group of researchers from the University of Washington, who managed to make it so small as to be carried by an insect.

Manufactured at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, and funded by a grant from Microsoft and the National Science Foundation, this camera is the first to provide a panoramic view of the world without creating difficulties for the user. insect to move.

And despite not being small or light enough to be installed on a fly, the 250 milligram weight of this chamber did not represent any problem for the Pinacate beetle, an insect characterized by carrying a load greater than half a gram on steep slopes. ability that he can also flaunt while climbing a tree.

And, despite the size of a smart phone compared to the cameras used by professionals, trying to reduce the dimensions of an action camera by implanting it in this device would have generated a totally different result from the one obtained. The phone would have been too big and heavy to be carried by the insect after the batteries were integrated.

Inspiration and operation of the camera

It is remarkable the effort involved in image processing associated with capturing millions of pixels in one shot, a task that also requires a lot of power to be carried out.

Based on this situation, the researchers decided to take an alternative route and be inspired by nature, focusing their attention on the way flies see the world.

In this sense, the large compound eyes of the fly have the ability to detect movement thanks to the presence in it of a wide field of vision, which explains why it is difficult for us to squash them.

Added to this, the fly has a small, high-resolution region, which allows it to focus on prey or any other point, helping to reduce the workload on its tiny brain.

Returning our attention to the camera, despite the fact that it represents an advance in terms of size, the quality of the images obtained with it is relegated when compared to that of the images obtained by the camera integrated in the original iPhone launched. 13 years ago.

Thus, the images obtained with the miniature camera are of low resolution and in black and white, while the videos recorded with it are sent to a connected telephone at a speed of 1 to 5 frames per second.

In an attempt to expand the camera’s field of view, the researchers incorporated a lens with the ability to rotate about 60 degrees to each side, making it possible to track a target or obtain a higher resolution panoramic view through the intervention of the camera. a remote operator, in order to avoid the insect having to move or adjust its position, as this will cause extra power consumption.

In addition to the camera’s image resolution and quality limitations caused by its size and low-power focus, there is also its transmission capabilities, reflected in a Bluetooth connection with a range of approximately 120 meters, a situation that demands a permanent presence of the operator near the camera.

However, on a positive balance, the battery life stands out, which is acceptable and allows the camera to transmit non-stop for up to two hours.

To extend this time, the researchers incorporated an accelerometer that is activated only when the beetle moves so that the camera only takes and transmits images when this element is in operation, thus managing to take the camera’s battery for a duration of 6 hours. .