Mountable, wireless camera from the University of Washington has a mechanical arm that increases the viewing range with minimal power consumption.


  • Increased maneuverability
  • Decreased energy use
  • Lightweight


  • Surveillance
  • Smart sensors

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Cameras use a significant amount of energy to capture the intricacies of a scene, and as a result are often attached to a large battery or a power outlet. The power outlet restrains the portability of the camera and the battery makes the camera heavy. Small robots and insects are unable to carry these heavy cameras, hindering our ability to capture images and video of insect life.

Innovation Details

The wireless steerable camera can stream video to a smartphone at 1 to 5 frames per second. It is made of a battery, a Bluetooth chip, a camera, and a mechanical arm. The arm can pivot 60 degrees to capture a high-resolution, panoramic shot or track a moving object while only using a minimal amount of energy. The arm was inspired by insects, which oftentimes have a small, high-resolution region in their compound eyes. Rather than moving their entire bodies to look around, they just turn their heads, saving energy while maintaining high resolution and clarity over their entire visual field. All together the camera weighs 248 milligrams, less than a pinch of salt. When attached to a small robot or insect, the camera and arm can be controlled via Bluetooth up to 120 meters away. To save more energy, the research team attached an accelerometer, so the camera only takes images when the robot/insect is moving.

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Biomimicry Story

Some insects, such as flies, have an area of high-resolution cells in their compound eyes. In order to see their surroundings, they move their entire head, which is less energy intensive than moving their entire body. Both of these together help to save valuable energy for the organism.