Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

Digital Agenda: Swiss, French & German scientists develop miniature artificial insect eyes which could help prevent accidents


Scientists in Switzerland, Germany, and France explored how the insect eye works and designed and built the first fully-functional miniature curved artificial compound eyes. The "CURVACE" project received €2 million in EU funding to develop the miniature "insect" eyes, which have high industrial potential in mobile robotics, smart clothing and medical applications.

In the future, the artificial compound eye could be used in areas where panoramic motion detection is primordial. For instance, a flexible artificial compound eye could be attached around automobiles for efficient obstacle detection (e.g. during parking manoeuvres, for automated vehicle guidance, or for the detection of vehicles or pedestrians that are getting too close), or implemented in Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) for vision-based collision-free navigation (e.g. during landing or for obstacle avoidance, such as in rescue operations). Due to their inherent low thickness and flexibility, they could also be integrated in tissues to make smart clothes, such as smart hats with collision-alert systems for visually impaired people. Moreover, flexible artificial compound eyes could be attached to the walls and furniture of intelligent homes for motion detection (e.g. for the elderly in ambient assisted living scenarios, or for children in an accident prevention role).

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said: “Nature provides us with many extremely sophisticated solutions when it comes to solving problems. The research programmes financed by the EC give us the possibility to get inspired, understand, copy and recreate on an industrial scale some of the great things Mother Nature has brought us, so we can improve the lives of our fellow citizens.