Science

Praying mantises outfitted with tiny 3D glasses

Praying mantises outfitted wit...
One of the 3D spec-wearing mantises, which probably isn't actually smiling
One of the 3D spec-wearing mantises, which probably isn't actually smiling
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One of the 3D spec-wearing mantises, which probably isn't actually smiling
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One of the 3D spec-wearing mantises, which probably isn't actually smiling
The scientists are hoping to find out if they process 3D imagery in the same way that we do, or if some other mechanism is at work
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The scientists are hoping to find out if they process 3D imagery in the same way that we do, or if some other mechanism is at work
One of the mantises, as seen through a pair of human-sized 3D glasses
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One of the mantises, as seen through a pair of human-sized 3D glasses
The mantises are held in place in front of a computer screen, on which moving three-dimensional visual targets are presented
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The mantises are held in place in front of a computer screen, on which moving three-dimensional visual targets are presented
The eyewear is temporarily fixed in front of the animals' compound eyes, using beeswax as an adhesive
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The eyewear is temporarily fixed in front of the animals' compound eyes, using beeswax as an adhesive
Praying mantises are the only invertebrates known to possess 3D vision
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Praying mantises are the only invertebrates known to possess 3D vision
The glasses are removed from the insects between testing sessions
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The glasses are removed from the insects between testing sessions
Dr. Vivek Nityananda with one of the praying mantises
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Dr. Vivek Nityananda with one of the praying mantises

Although us humans take 3D vision for granted, it's not a standard feature throughout the animal kingdom. In fact, praying mantises are the only invertebrates known to possess it – a fact which makes them excellent hunters. Scientists at Britain's Newcastle University are now studying the insects' ability to see in 3D, to determine if it could be copied in human technologies such as robot vision systems. As part of that study, they're equipping mantises with the smallest pairs of 3D glasses ever made.

The eyewear is temporarily fixed in front of the animals' compound eyes, using beeswax as an adhesive. The mantises are then held in place in front of a computer screen, on which moving three-dimensional visual targets are presented. By studying the insects' reactions to that stimuli, the scientists are hoping to find out if they process 3D imagery in the same way that we do, or if some other mechanism is at work.

"If we find that the way mantises process 3D vision is very different to the way humans do it, then that could open up all kinds of possibilities to create much simpler algorithms for programming 3D vision into robots," said Newcastle's Dr. Vivek Nityananda.

One of the mantises, as seen through a pair of human-sized 3D glasses
One of the mantises, as seen through a pair of human-sized 3D glasses

Of course, it could turn out that their 3D vision is similar to our own, wherein depth perception is made possible by comparing the disparities between an object's position as seen through the left and right eyes. Even if that is the case, the study could still provide valuable information on the evolution of 3D vision, which could in turn still be applied to the development of human technology.

The research is being led by Dr. Jenny Read. Dr. Nityananda provides more information on the study, in the video below.

Source: Newcastle University via Huffington Post

Computation Of 3D Vision In Praying Mantises

5 comments
UncleToad
I feel sorry for the poor mantis, they could have at least given it some Dame Edna Everage or Elton John style glasses !
MG48
@ UncleToad: They were going for the Lady Gaga look. So if the scientists are doing this research to see if they can copy how a mantis sees 3D like us humans, then why cant they just copy how we see 3D?
Zoakrajello
@MG48 You make an interesting point. The goal is not to create amazing entertainment devices for insects. Rather, the idea is that if a praying mantis judges depth and perceive a 3D world in a way that differs from our current method of comparing discrepancies between left and right eyes, perhaps there is new "mantis" method of simulating 3D that can be implemented in applications for humans.
Martin Hone
How they would see anything through those glasses is beyond me....
rocketride
@MG48 For a start, even if it turns out that mantids do process binocular information in the same way that we do, they're doing it with parts of a much smaller brain. Since it is smaller; finding, analyzing, and reverse-engineering the circuit that provides that functionality will be probably be easier than doing all that with its equivalent in a vertebrate brain. Looking for the needle in a much smaller haystack, as it were. And if their brains do do something different from what ours do, then it is useful to know that there are at least two ways of doing it.