What can humans learn from dragonflies?

Australian researchers have developed an artificial-intelligence system based on a dragonfly’s vision that they say could help improve the eyesight of people who can see almost nothing. The system also is expected to find applications in automated technologies that rely on artificial sight, such as robots and driverless cars.

In the latest research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, scientists showed how a computer program can mimic the eyesight of a dragonfly.

Compared with humans, dragonflies have a limited ability to distinguish details and shapes of objects. But they are one of the insect kingdom’s best predators because their wide field of vision and ability to detect fast movements allow them to keep track of prey even among a swarm of insects.

Researchers say the discovery could be integrated into bionic eyes, which use a retinal implant connected to a video camera to convert images into electrical impulses that carry signals back to the brain. Mimicking a dragonfly’s 360-degree field of vision and tracking ability could help visually impaired people sense when someone unexpectedly veers into their path, for instance.

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