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Eyes of bees can help us develop better cameras

Posted July 5, 2017

Scientists are always looking to nature for inspiration. There are no better designs than the ones created by nature, because they are always efficient and driven by function. Now scientists from RMIT University, Monash University, University of Melbourne and Deakin University looked into the way bees see colour to find possible ways to improve our cameras.

Bees have three eyes on the top of their head sensing ambient light. Image credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via Wikimedia

If you think about it, recognizing colour is extremely important for bees. They are searching for flowers using a variety of methods and sight is inevitably one of them. But having in mind how small bees are, it is quite interesting how they manage to adapt to changing views when they are flying over flowering fields. Colour of light is constantly changing, which means that bees must have a complex mechanism of processing colour. Our cameras deal with the same problem, but they simply assume that the world is mostly grey, which is not ideal. Scientists say that understanding how bees see colour could be advantageous for future camera technology.

Bees have three extra eyes on the top of their heads. They look directly to the sky and sense the ambient light. Then bees have a pair of normal eyes, which are also compound. They are tuned to sense flower colours from the environment. So it is a combination of all these eyes that enable bees to adapt to changing light colour and to find flowers with supreme accuracy. Understanding this mechanism better could help developing cameras for drones, smartphones and other devices.

But how scientists found out that these three eyes on the top of the head of the bee are connected into a united system with main pair of eyes? They mapped the neural tracings from ocelli, these ambient light sensins eyes, and showed neural projection did indeed feed to the key colour processing areas of the bee brain. Adrian Dyer, one of the authors of the study, said: “We’re using bio-inspired solutions from nature to tackle key problems in visual perception. This discovery on colour constancy can be implemented into imaging systems to enable accurate colour interpretation”.

Eyes of bees work equally great in direct sunlight, in forest light, in early mornings and other conditions. It is because ocelli senses ambient light and enables brains interpreting how this light would influence appearance of the colour in the surroundings of the bee. If our cameras were able to do that, our pictures and videos would have much more vivid, yet natural colour. However, of course, it will take some time until that is possible – for now it is only a basic idea.

Source: RMIT

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