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A Camera That Sees Like the Fishes.

Reportedly, it's very hard to sneak up on a mantis shrimp. It has tiny photoreceptors that detect polarized light, allowing it to perceive very dark and very bright objects in its field of view, discerning predator from prey in the murky ocean waters it calls home. That's not just a bit of ichthyology trivia, but the inspiration for a new type of camera that mimics the shrimp's peepers.

The new camera has a dynamic range, or a measure of the lightest and the darkest areas it can capture simultaneously, that's approximately 10,000 times higher than contemporary commercial cameras, claim researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Such a range could help self-driving visualize conditions, such as transitioning from a dark tunnel into bright sunlight, more acutely.

"In a recent crash involving a self-driving car, the car failed to detect a semi-truck because its color and light intensity blended with that of the sky in the background," says research team leader Viktor Gruev. The researchers tweaked the way the camera's photodiodes convert light into an electrical current. Instead of operating the photodiodes in "reverse bias mode," which is traditionally used for imaging, the researchers used forward bias mode. For the polarization sensitivity, the researchers essentially copied the way the mantis shrimp integrates polarized light detection into its photoreceptors by depositing nanomaterials directly onto the surface of the imaging chip that contained photodiodes.

The researchers describe the new camera in the Optical Society journal, Optica. They note the camera could be mass-produced for as little as $10 apiece.

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Title Annotation:GEAR: TECH WATCH
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Date:Mar 1, 2019
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