Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Specs: the critters wearing 3D glasses!

Tiny glasses reveal praying mantises have a different kind of 3D vision In-specs: the critters wearing 3D glasses!
Ellis Copeland | 10 February, 2018, 03:10

To investigate how the praying mantis 3D vision works and differs from our own, the British researchers devised special, tiny 3D glasses that were temporarily glued to the heads of mantises with beeswax. That advice won't help you at all in the unlikely event that you ever find yourself hunted by a real Rex, but it turns out it might actually save your life in the equally-unlikely event that your hunter is a giant praying mantis. However, it seems that praying mantises see things differently than we do.

In the study, scientists fitted the insect with tiny blue and red-tinted 3D glasses made of beeswax. Even an insect has had the 3D experience now, thanks to researchers from Newcastle University.

But the only known insect to also possess this ability is the praying mantis, a tiny critter whose brain has only a million or so neurons - compared with the roughly 100 billion neurons in a human brain.

Each of our two eyes sees the world from a slightly different perspective - these are then overlaid into one image in our brains, the slight differences between the two images allowing for an instantaneous calculation of distance (hence, depth perception).

3D vision is a handy ability for praying mantises, which are skilled hunters of their fellow insects and are known to take down the occasional small bird.

The researchers put the mantises into an "insect 3D cinema", treating them to a movie of some prey buzzing around. 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 mantis was shown two types of movies - one which showed video clips of moving prey, while the other featured static patterns of dots and a moving spiral of dots.

Who would've thought praying mantises had so much to teach us. The first film featured a moving dot, which the mantises attacked, demonstrating that they could perceive depth if an object moved.

We, as humans, are very good at seeing in 3D, as far as still images are concerned, because we match up the details of the picture produced by each of our two eyes.

On the other hand, based on their hunting style, praying mantises might be better served by a system that picks up only the movements of nearby prey. Apparently, they care so little about the details of the image that when each eye is shown completely different images, they can still pick out which parts are changing over time.

The team suggests this is a completely new kind of 3D vision that uses motion instead of image similarity. "In mantises, it is probably created to answer the question, 'Is there prey at the right distance for me to catch?'"

"Many robots use stereo vision to help them navigate, but this is usually based on complex human stereo".

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