Bees may inspire drones, robots that can ‘see’ better
Scientists have deciphered how bees perceive natural color, paving the way for remote-controlled airplanes and robots that can “see” better and more accurate smart cameras.
Color identification in complex outdoor environments is extremely difficult because of the changing color of light.
Researchers, including Monash University and the University of Melbourne in Australia, tried to see how damaged bees solve this problem and discovered a completely new mechanism for handling color information.
“In a digital system such as a camera or a robot, the color of objects often changes. This problem is solved today by the assumption that the world is, on average, gray,” said Adrian Dyer, a professor Associate at RMIT Australia University.
“This means that it is difficult to identify the true color of ripe rich mineral fruits or sands, limiting color image solutions out on airplanes, for example,” Dyer said.
The bees have three extra eyes (ocelli) on the top of their head that look directly into the sky, and researchers found that the ocelli contains two color receptors perfectly adapted to detect the color of ambient light.
The bees also have two main composite eyes that directly feel the colors of the surrounding flowers.
“Physics suggests that detecting light-colored ocels could allow a brain to pick up natural-colored illumination that would otherwise confound color vision,” said Jair Garcia RMIT.
“But for this to be true, eye spots of information must be integrated with the colors seen by compound eyes,” Garcia said.
To check if this happened, the researchers marked the neuronal paths of ocelli and showed that neural projections have actually fed the key areas of color processing that the bees’ brains.
“We use solutions inspired by the biology of nature to address the key issues of visual perception. The discovery of color consistency can be implemented in imaging systems to allow accurate color interpretation,” Dyer said.
“The discovery provides a great solution to a common problem and makes color constancy at a low cost,” said John Endler of Deakin University in Australia.
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.