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article imageArtificial compound eyes developed for autonomous cars

By Tim Sandle     Jan 11, 2019 in Science
Researchers, inspired by the eyes of insects, have developed artificial compound eyes designed to improve the abilities of autonomous cars and to help advance robotics.
Copying the human lens takes robotic technology a long-way; however, the compound eyes of insects provides a different level of visualization when it comes to peripheral vision. Other advantages that the eyes of insects have includes light sensitivity and motion detection. These derived from the fact an insect’s eye is made up of many thousands of ommatidia (a cluster of photoreceptor cells) and each is an individual sight receptor. For these reasons, technologists have been developing artificial compound eyes based on the biology of insects.
The types of artificial compound eyes being produced can aid autonomous vehicles and robots. Currently the technologies required to produce such 'bioinspired artificial compound eyes' has proved overly expensive. New research challenges this with a proposal for a simple low-cost approach to creating the artificial compound eye.
The low-cost approach is based on the realization that using lasers and nanotechnology to generate artificial compound eyes on a mass scale will lead to production problems, such as many of the image devices lacking uniformity and becoming distorted, which compromises the sight function in a robot.
The new research comes from the State Key Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. Here researchers have tried a new approach that appears successful. This involves shooting a laser through a double layer of acrylic glass, focusing on a layer below. The laser triggers the lower layer to swell, which creates a convex dome shape. An array of these tiny lenses can then be bent along a curved structure to create an artificial eye. Further research has also created lenses with antireflective and water-repellent properties, which will be suitable for autonomous cars.
The research has been published in the journal ACS Nano. The research paper is titled "Artificial Compound Eyes Prepared by a Combination of Air-Assisted Deformation, Modified Laser Swelling, and Controlled Crystal Growth."
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