3D vision discovered in praying mantis using tiny glasses

10 February, 2018, 06:59 | Author: Grady King
  • 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

Unlike other insects, praying mantises have a pair of large, forward-facing eyes.

Scientists already know how to confuse human 3D vision - and so they set out to see if praying mantises would also fall, er, prey to those same tricks.

Slight differences in the images of what they see are relayed to the brain and processed into a single image and the subtle variations in the two original views help the brain pinpoint the location of the object in three dimensions, the scientists wrote in the study.

Putting 3D glasses on praying mantises has given researchers insights into the unusual stereo vision of the insects.

They did so by making tiny 3D glasses for the bugs. The researchers discovered that not only could the praying mantis identify the prey in the movies but the creature also tried to capture the prey.

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Read and her colleagues have since confirmed research from the 1980s showing that praying mantises really do have 3D vision.

But the bugs fared differently under other circumstances. Humans and other primates use this kind of stereo sight setup to compare two slightly different viewpoints in order to gauge depth.

The praying mantises, it turned out, did not suffer from the same problem. However, in mantises, such 3-D perception activates when there is movement.

The researchers uncovered that while humans are fairly good at seeing in 3D in still images, mantises don't really need 3D vision to work in still images, since they attack only moving prey.

"This is a completely new form of 3D vision as it is based on change over time instead of static images", said behavioral ecologist Dr. Vivek Nityananda at Newcastle University. "In mantises it is probably created to answer the question 'is there prey at the right distance for me to catch?'" We do this by matching up the details of the picture seen in each eye.

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They eat small insects or their siblings when young and when they grow larger, have been known to prey on small scorpions, lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, fish, and even rodents.

This odd discovery could have robotic applications.

Scientists have been searching for methods to improve eyes and vision, in particular for robots.

It is possible that 3D vision in mantises is closer to that of vertebrates, where disparities between the positions of an object's image in the two eyes can be detected and used to reveal the object's position, even when the object is camouflaged and is invisible in either eye individually.

"Many robots use stereo vision to help them navigate, but this is usually based on complex human stereo", says Ghaith Tarawneh, co-author of the study. For all intents and purposes, this works out nicely but the main drawback is that our form of stereo vision requires a lot of computer processing.

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