‘Bug Eye’ broadens field of view
Wanting to reduce the weight and size of night vision goggles worn by frontline troops, and also hoping to widen the field of view, engineers at BAE Systems looked to the eyes of the tiny parasitic fly Xenos peckii for inspiration.1
Executive scientist Leslie Laycock explained that existing equipment only provides a 30–40° field of vision, severely limiting ‘situational awareness’ during night-time military operations.
“Most of the size and weight of a conventional lens is due to the glass—the actual optics,” he said. “So, when we were thinking of ways to miniaturise the equipment, we looked at insects because they have tiny optics in their eyes, which provide high quality images. The compound eyes of insects can often contain up to hundreds of thousands of tiny lenses. We didn’t want to go to that level of complexity, but found the Xenos peckii with 50 larger lenses, which provided the high resolution and sensitivity that we required.”
Each of the 50 separate lenses in each eye produces an individual image, which the insect’s brain meshes together to form a single large panoramic image.
The researchers say they have managed to recreate this effect in a new imaging device, dubbed ‘Bug Eye’, which has nine lenses. Each lens is about the size of a mobile phone camera lens, arranged on a curved surface.
The new technology provides troops with a 60 degree field of view, almost doubling that of previous helmet-mounted devices, and is both more compact and lightweight.
The Bug Eye system is also being applied in other areas too, e.g. providing missile tracking systems2 with 120° field of vision (a dramatic improvement on the previous 20 degrees), and doing away with the ‘black spots’ of current CCTV camera systems.
While it’s nice that insect eye design has inspired a broadening of the field of view of soldiers on night missions, wouldn’t it be even better if it inspires a broadening of people’s worldview generally? I.e. that they might come to a right view that eyes in nature are of Designer origin, rather than (as is unfortunately taught currently in schools, universities and elsewhere) of an evolutionary origin.
Nobody in their right mind would defraud the inventors of the night vision technology by denying them credit for their handiwork, or even their existence. How much more credit then is due to the One who designed the eyes that inspired them in the first place.
References and notes
- Bug Eye: Frontline troops will be able to see better in the dark using revolutionary new optical technology that’s modelled on the eye of a tiny parasitic fly, www.baesystems.com, acc. 14 January 2010. Return to text.
- We have earlier reported on this aspect: Tiny insect’s unique eyes inspire advanced camera, Creation 31(3):8, 2009; creation.com/xenos1. Return to text.