a bug’s life

While Pixar created a fictional account of A Bug’s Life (a mashup of Aesop’s Fables and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai), this Science magazine piece looks at documenting the world from the viewpoint of a bug.

The work focuses on creating a very small wireless camera rig – small enough it can fit on a small bug. So why would you want to instrument an insect? Well, turns out that evolution has created bugs that are highly optimized and energy efficient. In particular, scientists were curious about insect vision and moving their head vs moving their entire body to orient their visual organs.

By mounting the camera on a tiny insect-sized robot, scientists could study energy usage differences between an articulated (like a bug’s head) vs fixed camera position. Turns out articulated saves a lot of energy used in navigation – which could explain the bug evolving that capability.

One other aspect the work doesn’t touch upon is point-of-view. Any filmmaker will tell you that camera angle and perspective is critical in telling a story. What narratives and insight might we gain from seeing the world through a bug’s eyes? Now we have the tech to ask that question.

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