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Research Result :: CURVACE: unveils curved, programmable, artificial compound eye

CURVACE: unveils curved, programmable, artificial compound eye

CURVACE project illustration
© CURVACE project

(22/07/2013) Despite all our technological advances, it is still often hard to beat nature when it comes to solving problems. Now a project has taken its inspiration from the insect world to build a man-made compound eye, designed to detect motion with a high temporal resolution.

The “grand goal” of the CURVACE project is the design, prototyping, programming, and validation of fully functional artificial compound eyes.

While consumer cameras are inspired from the single-lens mammalian eye, most animal species use compound eyes, which consist of a dense mosaic of tiny eyes. Compared to single-lens eyes, compound eyes offer lower resolution, but significantly larger fields of view, thin package, and with negligible distortion, all features which are very useful for motion detection in tasks such as collision avoidance, distance estimation, and landing. Attempts have recently been made to develop artificial compound eyes, but none of the solutions proposed so far included fast motion detection in a very large range of illuminations as insects do.

The novel curved artificial compound eye (CURVACE) features a panoramic, hemispherical field of view with a resolution identical to that of the Drosophila fruitfly in less than 1 mm thickness. Additionally, it can extract images 3 times faster than a fruitfly, and includes neuromorphic photoreceptors that allow motion perception in a wide range of environments from a sunny day to moon light.

Furthermore, the artificial compound eye possesses embedded and programmable vision processing, which allows customizable integration in a broad range of applications where motion detection is important, such as mobile robots and micro air vehicles, home automation, surveillance, medical instruments, and smart clothing.

The main results of the project have been recently published in PNAS: Miniature curved artificial compound eyes, D. Floreano et al. PNAS 2013 110(23):9267-9272.

 The CURVACE project, coordinated by "Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne", Lausanne (Switzerland), was funded under FET-Open "Challenging Current Thinking" objective and just finished on 30th June 2013 (total duration 45 months, EC contribution: 2,900,000 €).