Dragon­fly in­sect tech­nol­ogy used in ar­ti­fi­cial vi­sion sys­tem tests for driver­less cars

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RE­SEARCHERS AT the Univer­sity of Ade­laide, Aus­tralia, and Lund Univer­sity in Swe­den are study­ing how a dragon­fly tracks its prey in or­der to im­prove ar­ti­fi­cial vi­sion sys­tems for driver­less cars.

The way a driver­less car sees is a crit­i­cal part of how it op­er­ates. Poor vi­sion makes for a bad driver – that’s a given. Dragon­flies have a cer­tain some­thing, a neu­ron in their brain, and great track­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, that cars could re­ally learn from.

The re­searchers favour a ‘hy­brid ap­proach’ to vis­ual sys­tems and al­go­rithms, and are keen to take as much from na­ture as they can. The dragon­fly’s abil­ity to chase prey and not bump into things is to be com­mended, and would make for a per­fect driver­less car on the UK’s con­fus­ing and busy streets.

“It is one thing for ar­ti­fi­cial sys­tems to be able to see mov­ing tar­gets, but trac­ing move­ment so it can move out of the way of those things is a re­ally im­por­tant as­pect to self-steer­ing ve­hi­cles,” said re­search su­per­vi­sor and lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Ade­laide’s Med­i­cal School, Steven Wie­der­man.

“What we found was the neu­ron in dragon­flies not only pre­dicted where a tar­get would reap­pear, it also traced move­ment from one eye to the other – even across the brain hemi­spheres.

“This is also ev­i­dent in clut­tered en­vi­ron­ments where an ob­ject might be dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish from the back­ground,” he added.

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