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Giving hardware the ability to see has enabled a variety of applications, including self-driving cars, object identification and crop monitoring. However, unlike animal vision systems, machine vision systems are unable to evolve in their natural environment.

“Our system could be useful for the development of unconventional applications, such as panoramic motion detection and obstacle avoidance in constantly changing environments, as well as augmented and virtual reality. Currently, the size of a semiconductor optical unit, commonly used in smartphones, automobiles, and surveillance/monitoring cameras, is limited to the laboratory level,” said Young Min Song, professor of electrical engineering and computing at GIST.

Dynamic visual systems capable of navigating both on land and in water have therefore not yet powered the machines, prompting researchers to develop a new artificial vision system that faithfully reproduces the vision of the fiddler crab, who can navigate both terrains.

Because all current systems are hemispherical, the semi-terrestrial species – affectionately known as the calling crab because it appears to beckon with its large claws – has amphibious imaging capability and an extraordinarily wide field of view. .

The artificial eye, which looks like a usually unremarkable little round black ball, interprets its inputs using a combination of components that process and understand light. The researchers wrapped a 3D spherical structure in an array of flat microlenses with a graduated refractive index profile and an array of flexible photodiodes with comb-like patterns. Thanks to this design, light rays from many sources would always converge in the same place on the image sensor, regardless of the refractive index of its surroundings.

Amphibious and panoramic imaging capabilities were evaluated in air and water studies by imaging five objects of varying distances and directions, and the system produced consistent image quality and field of view nearly 360° in land and water situations. That is, he could see both underwater and on land whereas earlier systems could only see in one.

When it comes to fiddler crabs, there are more than meets the eye. Because they live both underwater and on land, their gigantic claws have unique and powerful vision systems. Their flat corneas, along with a graduated refractive index, counteract defocusing effects caused by changes in the external environment – ​​a significant limitation for other compound eyes.

An ellipsoidal and rod-eye configuration gives microscopic creatures an omnidirectional 3D field of view. To avoid attacks on large open tidal expanses and to communicate and engage with mates, they have evolved to watch virtually everything at once.

A wide field of view (FoV) camera mimicking an insect’s compound eyes was described in Nature in 2013, while a wide field of view camera mimicking a fisheye was reported in 2020. Although such cameras can capturing huge areas at once makes it structurally difficult to go beyond 180 degrees, and commercial solutions with 360 degree FoV have recently entered the market.

With this, the crab was an excellent muse. During the tests, five adorable objects (a dolphin, an airplane, a submarine, a fish and a ship) were projected onto the machine vision system from different angles. The scientists experimented with multi-laser spot imaging, and the fake images matched the simulation. They immersed the device partly in water in a container to go deep.

Examining biologically inspired light adaptation strategies in the search for higher resolution and superior image processing approaches is a logical continuation of the work. It is an incredible feat of optical engineering and non-planar imaging, combining aspects of bio-inspired design and modern flexible electronics to achieve capabilities not found in traditional cameras. Potential applications range from population monitoring to environmental monitoring.

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