Explore the World from an Animal's Perspective with This Video Camera

Scientists have developed a new technology enabling us to see the world through animals’ eyes more accurately than ever before. This innovative system combines new hardware and software to generate images and videos that faithfully represent the colours perceived by animals such as bees and birds.

Gizmodo reported this development, outlined in a recent study published in PLOS Biology, brings a level of accuracy close to conventional methods but with enhanced versatility.

Traditional methods used to depict animal colour vision rely on false colour imagery, presenting challenges in implementation and limitations like only working with still images in specific lighting conditions. The new technique developed by a team of researchers from the U.K. and the US aims to overcome these obstacles by merging established photography methods with novel hardware and software.

Explaining the process, study authors Daniel Hanley, an associate professor of biology at George Mason University, and Vera Vasas, a biologist at the Queen Mary University of London, told Gizmodo in a joint email highlighting the system’s use of two cameras – one sensitive to ultraviolet light and the other to visible light.

A specially designed optical glass, known as a beam splitter, separates ultraviolet from visible light, allowing the system to capture light from four distinct wavelength regions: ultraviolet, blue, green, and red simultaneously. The data received from the cameras is then translated into “perceptual units” corresponding to an animal’s known photoreceptor sensitivity using the team’s software.

The researchers claim that this technology can produce not only images but also precise moving videos that showcase the world as perceived by nonhuman animals. In tests focusing on honeybees and UV-sensitive birds, the system demonstrated an accuracy ranging from 92% to 99%, depending on environmental conditions.

The team, supported by funding from the National Geographic Society, looks to applications beyond scientific research, with plans to enhance nature documentaries.

Award-winning nature photographer and filmmaker Neil Losin is part of the team, adding expertise to leverage this technology for future visual storytelling. The researchers also anticipate the potential for new scientific discoveries as they explore the vast information available through recorded videos of the natural world.

With two working systems already in place and plans for a third, the researchers encourage the replication of their technology.

They emphasise the accessibility of their hardware, composed of commercially available cameras and parts, and have made their software code open source for others to explore and refine.

This breakthrough offers not only a glimpse into the animal kingdom’s vibrant palette but also opens new avenues for scientific exploration and visual storytelling.