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Biologists often influence engineers, and the metaphor of the camera as an eye of sorts has existed since the invention of photography. Now a group of researchers at the Institute for Neuroinformatics at the University of Zurich have started to take things more literally.
The scientists have created a camera that captures images in a manner similar to the way that the retina functions. The dynamic vision sensor (DVS), profiled in a sidebar to "The Language of the Brain" in the October Scientific American, picks up only the parts of a scene that morph when a pixel detects a change in brightness. Only what is different registers—and it does so the instant it happens. In contrast, the traditional video camera images the entire scene 24 times a second and is thus much slower and less efficient.
See for yourself: Watch the video below of the DVS in action, as it performs feats such as seeing through sunglasses and goes through its paces in a strange monochromatic world. In the video, the high-speed vision sensor also serves as the pivotal techno-element for robots that block a soccer ball or balance a pencil.