Mantis shrimp eyes are the latest inspiration in robotics

13 Jul 2016

Mother nature has long been one of the biggest inspirations behind modern robotics. Now, one of the most fascinating species on Earth is providing inspiration.

The mantis shrimp is loaded with natural wonders, such as an immense punch, as well as vision beyond the comprehension of most humans.

And now the way it rolls its eyes to enhance the clarity of its already incredible sight has been established, paving the way for automated visual systems.

Future Human

University of Bristol’s Ilse Daly led a team whose eye-rolling discovery has been published in Nature Communications, noting the incredible species’ ability to see the “polarisation of light” to better degrees through a novel technique.

Mantis shrimp

A fascination

“We have known for a while that mantis shrimp see the world very differently from humans,” said Dr Nicholas Roberts, co-author on the new paper.

To clarify why mantis shrimp enjoy sight of such interest, it largely boils down to colour receptive cones in the eye. While humans have three, and can see millions of shades of colour, mantis shrimp have 16, multiplying out the total colours to an incredible degree.

“Intuitively, a stable eye should see the world better than a mobile one, but mantis shrimp seem to have found a different way to see more clearly,” said Roberts.

Mantis shrimp eyes fascinating, via Michael Bok, University of Lund

The eyes are fascinating, via Michael Bok, University of Lund

What nature intended

The researchers think that an automated visual system that can mimic the mantis shrimp eye could provide a low-power, high-performance piece of technology, with applications ranging from underwater exploration to materials analysis.

This isn’t the first time this creature has been studied to improve robotics. The species’ punch capacity is such that it impacts on prey at speeds similar to that of a discharged .22 calibre bullet.

Naturally, roboticists are fairly keen on that. A few years ago, the same eyes were studied to help develop tools to better detect cancer.

We’ve previously listed 10 amazing robots heavily influenced by nature, the chameleon tongue being the stand-out winner.

Main image of mantis shrimp, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic