Researchers Build Tiny 'Backpack Camera' Light Enough to Strap to a Beetle

A “camera backpack” has been invented by researchers at the University of Washington, which has been attached to beetles for a point-of-view perspective into their daily life. Described as a “GoPro for beetles,” the camera can be controlled by a smartphone.

Science Robotics has published a paper about the new invention in its latest journal. Remarkably weighing just 250 milligrams (one-tenth of a playing card), the “low-power, low-weight, wireless camera system” can “capture a first-person view of what’s happening from an actual live insect or create vision for small robots.”

Despite its miniscule size and weight, the camera sits atop a mechanical arm that is capable of pivoting 60 degrees in order to take panoramic images. It can even stream footage at a rate of up to five frames per second, feeding back to a smartphone in real-time. Not bad, given how tiny it is. The researchers behind the beetle cam used an “ultra-low-power system.”

Co-lead author Vikram Iyer said:

We can track a moving object without having to spend the energy to move a whole robot. These images are also at a higher resolution than if we used a wide-angle lens, which would create an image with the same number of pixels divided up over a much larger area.

An accelerometer was attached to the test beetles so as to only capture images and video when the beetle is on the move.

Although in its infancy, this project could lead to exciting innovations, allowing researchers to see within hard-to-reach areas when studying wildlife. Check out the video to see for yourself, or learn more by reading the paper here.

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A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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Soon enough, if not already, they'll have beefed up versions of these guys, and they'll be robot spies everywhere, constantly collecting data.

I suppose you could just step on them, or swat them like insects...

If you happened to notice that one in the bushes by you... ;-)


*Looks at iPhone*

...and then some... ;-)