Praying mantises rocking 3D glasses for science

The only invertebrates that can see in 3D could spark new revolutions in technology

Putting glasses on a bug seems like something scientists do drunk, but the researchers at the University of Newcastle are very sober and very convinced about their project.

Praying mantises are special, you see. Besides being a super predator and master at keeping gardens free of bugs, mantises are the only invertebrate with 3D vision. So the scientists figure they could learn something from these creatures about how 3D vision works.

Dr Jenny Read, who is leading the bug-loving team from the Institute of Neuroscience, says that despite mantises having really minute brains, they’re very sophisticated visual hunters.

What does the bug see?

Anyone who’s seen mantises catch their prey can attest to how frighteningly efficient they are. Read said, “We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world.”

So the scientists are attaching tiny 3D glasses to the mantises with beeswax. The mantises are then shown a series of computer-generated images and are fooled into getting their depth perception wrong.

The point of the experiment is to compare the way mantises process 3D information with the way we do. From the observations, scientists then collect readings from the special glasses as the mantis responds to stimuli.

Don’t worry, the mantises won’t have to sleep with the glasses on. Once the trials are over, the glasses are removed and the mantises returned to special habitats made for them.

What the scientists hope is that from the readings taken, they can model new neural algorithms for improved 3D technologies. This could open up a whole new world where 3D vision is concerned, especially when it comes to robotics.

With better 3D vision, robots would be able to navigate better, making them useful in all sorts of situations whether for military surveillance or mundane tasks like vacuuming. Or perhaps make viewing 3D films even more awesome, who knows.

[Source: CNet]

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