for National Geographic News
Put down that swatter and pick up a microscope.
That pesky fly's eyes hold an important blueprint for creating better video cameras, military target-detection systems, and surveillance equipment, Australian researchers say.
Flies can spot movement in shadows and see moving objects against interference-filled backgrounds. Such abilities could have military applications.
And camera makers covet the insect's skill at piecing together a complete image when there are large variations in the level of light. Traditional cameras clumsily rely on single levels of brightness for their images, leading to overexposed photos.
So Russell Brinkworth, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Adelaide, devised software that sees the same way a fly does.
"About three and half years ago we set out to mimic the first stage of transforming light into electricity inside the fly's brain," he said.
By copying the fly's visual power, "[we hope to] improve how information from the real world gets into cameras and systems and then maximize that information," Brinkworth said.
Model for Success
Brinkworth used off-the-shelf components such as resistors, capacitors, and light sensors to build an electronic model of the fly's visual system.
He already has the software working on a standard PC and has used it to enhance video.
Brinkworth eventually plans to shrink the prototype and place it on a microchip that could go between a camera's sensor and its digital converter.
This would allow the camera to capture more complete imagessuch as, for instance, both the face of a person standing in front of a sunlit window and the scene outside.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES