Scientists have designed a tiny camera that the beetles can carry on their backs

Every year, companies like GoPro manage to integrate more and more features into smaller and smaller cameras. But a team of researchers at the University of Washington has managed to build a wireless live streaming camera so small that even a bug can carry it.


In-car camera

To get a glimpse of the insects’ daily life, the scientists have built a tiny camera that they can mount on a beetle using a miniature backpack.


This miniature version of the camera was the work of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Washington, which was commissioned to design a camera light enough not to interrupt an insect’s daily routine, but powerful enough to broadcast live images to a smartphone. The result is a tiny robot that provides real-time access to an insect’s vision of the world.

Travel light

The main challenge for the team was to design a camera small enough to be carried by beetles, especially beetles that are known to carry objects on steep slopes, and to make the camera powerful enough to be worth using. Even the built-in camera of a smartphone would be too heavy. So the scientists took their inspiration from the insects themselves, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics.

Like the faceted eyes of a fly, the tiny camera has a wide field of vision but only a small range in which the image is particularly sharp. The result is about as good as you would expect from an insect-proof backpack. The black and white images are only transmitted at between one and five frames per second. In the future, the researchers may be able to remove the part of the camera that the beetles are equipped with, using insect-sized surveillance robots.