Strapping a GoPro onto your pet can result in some pretty amusing video footage. But what if you prefer insects to mammals? There’s no way you could fit a regular action camera onto one of those, unless it’s one of those giant bird-eating spiders you find in South America maybe. Now, thanks to the miracles of modern science and technology, we have a video camera that’s tiny enough to attach to a beetle.
Researchers from the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, working under a fellowship grant from Microsoft have come up with a miniature camera that weighs just 250 milligrams. That makes it light enough to be carried by some sturdier insects, including the death-feigning beetle and a pinacate beetle.
The teensy camera unit includes an image sensor, processing circuitry, a Bluetooth transmitter, and a battery. But given the size limitations, its image quality isn’t very good at this point, capturing low resolution greyscale images at a very low frame rate. It streams images at somewhere from 1 to 5 frames per second, with a 160 x 120 resolution, and is capable of being remotely steered 30º to the left or right so a wider field of view can be observed.
The research team also developed a tiny, 2cm long robot that can also carry a steerable camera, to demonstrate the potential to reduce robot power consumption needs, since it doesn’t need to move the whole robot to survey a scene. I can only imagine the potential for building tiny camera robots that look like insects to carry out espionage.
If you’re interested in learning more about the InsectCam, the full research paper is available from Science Robotics.