Today’s Solutions: December 01, 2021

Have you ever wondered how bugs view the world? Well, now that’s possible after researchers from the University of Washington created the “GoPro for beetles,” a robotic backpack equipped with a tiny camera that can be put onto beetles to capture their bug’s-eye view.

On top of the incredible view, the devices could power future biological studies and allow us to “explore novel environments,” according to the research team.

The backpack was designed to be carried by two species: A “death-feigning” beetle and Pinacate beetle. Both of those have been observed carrying up to half a gram at a time. As such, the camera rig they created weighs just a quarter gram.

The backpack camera uses an ultra-low-power black-and-white camera that pans up to 60 degrees via a mechanical arm. The arm bends when voltage is applied and can stay in the new position for about a minute before returning to its original spot. That in turn provides “a wide-angle view of what’s happening without consuming a huge amount of power,” said co-lead author Vikram Iyer.

In addition, an accelerometer ensures it only records when the beetles move, letting it run for up to six hours on a charge. The insects weren’t actually harmed by the research and went on to live for “at least a full year” after it concluded, the team said. Now, they hope to use the backpack to learn more about them. “There are so many questions you could explore, such as how does the beetle respond to different stimuli that it sees in the environment?” Iyer said. 

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