Scientists have developed an ultra-sensitive camera that mimics the eye of the mantis shrimp and can potentially improve early cancer detection. The camera developed by researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the US is capable of sensing both colour and polarisation. “The animal kingdom is full of creatures with much more sensitive and sophisticated eyes than our own,” said Viktor Gruev, a professor at University of Illinois.
“These animals perceive natural phenomena that are invisible to humans. Polarisation of light – that is, the direction of oscillation of light as it propagates in space – is one such example,” Gruev said. “While most of us are familiar with polarised sunglasses, which simply remove glare, many animals use polarised vision as a covert communication channel, to find food, or even to navigate by sensing polarisation patterns in the sky,” he added.
The mantis shrimp, considered one of the best hunters in shallow waters, possesses one of the most sophisticated eyes in nature. Compared with human vision, which has three different types of colour receptors, the mantis shrimp has 16 different types of colour receptors and six polarisation channels, Gruev said.
“These organs not only surpass the sensitivity of our own visual systems, they also capture more visual information,
using less power and space, than today’s most sophisticated, state-of-the-art cameras,” he said. “By mimicking the mantis shrimp visual system, we have created a unique camera that can be used to improve the quality of our lives,” Gruev said.