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Praying mantises have been given tiny 3D glasses

10 February 2018, 06:00 | Francis Delgado

3-D vision discovered in praying mantis

Praying mantises sporting tiny 3D glasses that were held in place with beeswax have revealed a new kind of'stereo vision that may help improve robot sight

Researchers using miniature 3D glasses have discovered how the praying mantis' unique vision allows them to spot objects in three dimensions even when humans can not.

The scientists then showed them videos of their prey animals, and watched to see what stimuli caused them to react.

Scientists at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom have been experimenting with praying mantises to learn how much their depth perception allows them to see.

Apparently, praying mantises don't perceive depth in the same way as most other animals.

It means each eye sees a slightly different view of the world.

Researchers surmise that this is perhaps because the mantises only use their 3D vision to hunt for prey.

The scientists believe the system was developed in a way that's much less complex than our version of 3D vision, in order to be processed by the mantises' less complex brains. The difference in details between the two is what allows us to estimate how far away things are or to estimate depth, which is why it's also called 3D vision.

They affixed tiny glasses to a mantis' head with beeswax, like old-fashioned 3D glasses with a blue filter on one eye and a green one on the other.

But humans are not the only animals that have stereo vision. Did their brains process visual information in the same way as humans and other vertebrates, or was it using a totally different mechanism to do so?

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The team used two types of movie - the first type was a clip of delicious moving insect prey hovering right in front of the mantis.

This was the case even when each eye looked at two completely different images - an ability humans don't share.

'Thus, while there is no evidence that mantis stereopsis works at all with static images, it successfully reveals the distance to a moving target'. That was telling us praying mantises do not use correlation for their stereovision - at least not the correlation of image contrast.

The researchers determined that humans are quite good at perceiving objects and structures in 3D that are still images.

They played the insects videos of moving dots just a couple of centimetres from them, which they mistook for prey and launched for, and could even spot the moving dots in circumstances that would confuse most humans.

Basically, they're looking for only things that move; the rest of the picture's little touches don't really matter.

According to fellow researcher Jenny Read, this was a simpler method of 3D vision, and could have implications for building lighter machines, such as drones. Mantises, however, focus on movement.

"This is a completely new form of 3D vision as it is based on change over time instead of static images", said behavioural ecologist, Dr Vivek Nityananda at Newcastle University.

"It could be implemented for example into lightweight robots".



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