Maastricht Economic and social Research and  training centre on Innovation and Technology

I&T Weekly holiday break
I&T Weekly is taking a holiday break. We will be back on Friday, January 12, 2018 with a fresh selection of innovation and technology news. On behalf of the entire UNU-MERIT team, we wish our readers an excellent 2018!

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All headlines
  • France announces landmark ban on fossil fuel production
  • Extreme laser bursts may lead to practical nuclear fusion
  • Gene editing staves off deafness in mice
  • Integrated circuits could make quantum computers scalable
  • 'Water cloak' uses electromagnetic waves to eliminate turbulence
  • Cold cigarette lighter will power satellite
  • Bee brains can help cameras to take better photos
    New research on how bees perceive colour could be put to good use in our digital cameras, meaning photos shot by drones or phones would look more natural than ever.

    It's all to do with colour constancy, the way that bees (and humans) can tell a flower is red no matter what the colour or quality of the light - a mental trick that the digital cameras of today really struggle with.

    Researchers from RMIT University in Australia found that bees are using two colour receptors in their ocelli, the three extra eyes on the top of the head, that judge the colour of ambient light, in combination with two main compound eyes that detect flower colours more directly.

    In the past it was thought bees might use some kind of chromatic adaptation, like humans, to make colour constancy corrections. It's similar to adjusting the white balance on a photo to correct for the ambient light. What the new research suggests is that bees are doing something different: the scientists traced neural activity from the ocelli, discovering that information was passed to the key colour processing areas of the bee brain.

    Those three tiny upward-facing eyes measure the light coming from the sky and can make adjustments accordingly, correctly identifying flower colours. The team then set down some mathematical principles behind this mix of data from the ocelli and compound eyes, principles which could eventually be used to program the same trick into a smartphone camera or an exploratory robot.

    As well as making your pictures look more realistic in unusual lighting situations, this model could help robots trek through sunlight and shade without getting confused about what they're looking at.

    Science Alert / PNAS    July 05, 2017