For two decades Eric Warrant has literally had a pretty crappy job. As a student who specializes in optics at the University of Lund in Sweden, he has been passionately studying the last creature on earth that you’d think of when it came to helping Toyota develop a true-color night-vision system…
The dung beetle.
Dung beetles have an uncanny ability to see clearly and navigate in even the darkest environment. Toyota is interested in developing a night-vision navigation system that allows for an optimal, full-color image in those conditions, we all want to avoid a car accident in the dark and Eric Warrant likes spending time with dung beetles. Everybody wins!
Using dung beetles’ abilities as the launching point and inspiration for this idea, Toyota is developing, in the simplest explanation we can give you, an advanced algorithym system that teaches the camera to look at every pixel in a single frame of video, look at the surrounding pixels, any movement in adjacent pixels and basically milk as much image information from the collected data in real-time to create a perfect, true-color image from nothing but a seemingly black image.
The team originally assumed they would have to design a special processor chip to run the algorithm and this would go inside a digital video camera, Malm says. In fact, the processing unit of a conventional PC graphics card was powerful enough to do the job, and they have managed to fine tune the algorithm to analyse images from the camera’s three colour channels – red, green and blue – simultaneously in real time. Three years after starting the project, the team finally have a way of capturing full-colour moving images shot in what to human eyes is almost total darkness.
Exactly how this technology will eventually be used is anyone’s guess.
But when that tech finally saves lives in the dark?
We can all stand up and applaud a crazy dude and his obsession with a crappy little bug.