Robot bees with laser eye may one day be able to do various things from pollinating crops to helping disaster victims, and may also control smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices with their mechanical eyes, researchers say.
Scientists are now designing and building bee inspired robots that they named RoboBees. Although previous research showed that robot bees are able to move even while submerged in water, the thing that they lack is depth perception.
Having a lack of depth perception means that the bees are likely to bump into objects quite often, and have a tough time landing on flowers.
To solve the problem, the researchers will equip the robot bees with laser-based radar vision. The technology is called light detection and ranging, or lidar, and how it works is that it measures the distance to an object by illuminating the target with a laser, and then it analyzes how long it takes the reflected light to travel back. That way it is able to calculate the distance to an object, and the size and shape of said object.
Similar lidar technology is currently being tested on self-driving or driverless car prototypes, to help them navigate their surroundings and not crash into things.
Karthik Dantu, a computer scientist at the University at Buffalo in New York said that this technology is similar to that of Microsoft Kinect that helps sensor your movement in a video game when you play it on the Xbox. The technology is also very safe, Dantu added.
Huikai Xie, a sensor expert and professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Florida, and Sanjeev Koppal, a computer-vision expert at the University of Florida will create the small sensor that calculates reflected light.
To help the robot bees map their environments, Dantu will develop navigation algorithms and unique perception.
According to Koppal, the new lidar device for robot bees will weigh only about 0.0019 ounces (56 milligrams). Researchers hope to have the micro-lidar algorithms and sensors in three years from now. The technology will be incorporated into the robot bees by scientists at Harvard University.
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