Compound insect eye close up (digital graphic)
Video, 5 mins

Insect Inspired Stereo Vision

Insect compound eyes are made of hundreds of lens-capped units pointing in all directions. For a long time, scientists believed that these directions were constant because the lenses are immovably fixed to the head.

However, researchers at the University of Sheffield have discovered something spectacular. Under the lenses, the light sensitive sensory cells called the photo-receptors do more than sense light. They move back-and-forth extremely fast, selecting which part of the lens-projected world they view. This finding has challenged the scientific consensus on the performance and limits of the compound eyes: insects can actually see the world in quite high detail and have stereo vision.

On this research story, the team set to investigate how far these sensory movements spread within the eye. This question is important for understanding how compound eyes outperform man-made models and devices based on stationary light sensors. This line of research helps us to build better and cheaper artificial imaging sensors to be used in consumer electronics, medical applications and more.



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