Jumping Spiders’ Eyes May Inspire New Camera Technologies

In a paper published in Science this week, Japanese researchers reported on a discovery that jumping spiders use a method for gauging distance called “image defocus”, which no other living organism is known to use. Rather than use focusing and stereoscopic vision like humans or head-wobbling motion parallax like birds, the spiders have two green-detecting layers in their eyes — one in focus and one not. By comparing the two, the spiders can determine the distance from objects. Scientists discovered that bathing spiders in pure red light “breaks” their distance measuring ability.

Here’s a National Geographic video discussing the finding:

Regarding the finding’s potential impact on photography, PopPhoto writes,

This “image defocus” could provide an interesting alternative to the way that modern cameras focus and analyze distance. Take for instance the current crop of 3D cameras. Some use two lenses and some allow you to take a panorama of shots, and will pick two to stitch together two to make a 3D final — these methods are analagous to the stereoscopic and motion parallax versions found in biology mentioned above. If cameras were able to adopt the defocus method, it could potentially provide 3D information from a single lens. Alternately, it might be a different way of calculating focus, separate from the phase- and contrast-based versions that we see right now.

No word on when “spider eye rangefinders” will become a standard feature in cameras.

(via Science via PopPhoto)

Image credit: Anterior Median and Lateral Eyes of a Female Jumping Spider – (Maevia inclemens) by Thomas Shahan

  • Through Painted Eyes

    Exciting times, these are.

  • Anonymous

    I kinda wonder if manufacturers could incorporate a simple laser rangefinder light the external ones many technical camera users already carry since in low light wouldn’t a optical multi-lens system still have issues?

    I know Nikon already makes rangefinders

  • Johnsmith

    Mechanical rangefinder cameras are very easy to focus in low light.

  • Anonymous

    With a fast lens and manual focus like is use on my film dslr it is simple too but I didn’t mean a “rangefinder” camera I meant a actual laser rangefinder.

     I think this was more for auto focus systems since other wise I could use hyper-focal distance anywayThey do mention “alternative to the way that modern cameras focus and analyze distance”.

  • Tripleplonk

    The human brain is wired for stereoscopic 3D. 

  • Anonymous

    Miss Muffets of the world would be stalked for pictures round the clock!

  • Just Visiting

    It’s look like a PDAF to me(two simultaneous focus readings).