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By turning the brain cell activity underlying fly eyesight into mathematical equations, researchers have found an ultra-efficient method for pulling motion patterns from raw visual data.
Though they built the system, the researchers don’t quite understand how it works. But however mysterious the equations may be, they could still be used to program the vision systems of miniaturized battlefield drones, search-and-rescue robots, automobile navigation systems and other systems where computational power is at a premium.
“We started with insect vision as an inspiration, and built a model that’s feasible for real-world use, but in doing so, we’ve built a system almost as complicated as the insect’s,” said O’Carroll. “That’s one of the fascinating things here. It doesn’t necessarily lead us to a complete understanding of how the system works, but to an appreciation that nature got it right.”