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3D vision of praying mantis explored using old-school 3D glasses

Posted January 8, 2016

3D vision is extremely important for our future. Modern robots must have visual perception of objects that surround us and, as usual, scientists are looking into nature for inspiration. Most of our knowledge about 3D perception came from vertebrates like us, but now scientists from the Newcastle University have confirmed that the praying mantis also uses 3D vision for hunting.

Mantis have poor vision of red, so its 3D glasses have green and blue lenses. They are fixed to mantis’ head using beeswax. Image credit:

Mantis have poor vision of red, so its 3D glasses have green and blue lenses. They are fixed to mantis’ head using beeswax. Image credit:

It is not the first time such study has been conducted with the praying mantis. Back in 1980s scientists used prisms and occluders to demonstrate the 3D vision in mantises. But because of these methods only a handful of images could be shown to this invertebrate.

Now, however, scientists designed special ‘old school’ 3D glasses for tests with mantises, which allows for a great variety of images. Red colour is poorly visible for mantises, so glasses consist of one blue and one green lens. Being able to show a huge variety of pictures to research 3D perception of the praying mantis will bring many benefits and may help creating some of the technology of the future.

Jenny Read, leader of the study, said: “Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency. We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world. Better understanding of their simpler processing systems helps us understand how 3D vision evolved, and could lead to possible new algorithms for 3D depth perception in computers.”

Tiny 3D glasses were attached to the head of a mantis with beeswax. Then participant of the study was shown short videos of simulated bugs moving around a computer screen. 2D images did not interest mantis, but 3D videos, where bugs look like they are flying in front of the screen, did get its attention and it tried to hunt them. Scientists also used not such old-school technology, but modern 3D glasses, which work via circular polarization separating the two eyes’ images, did not work, because mantis is too close to the screen.

Scientists will continue their research. They are planning to examine the algorithms used for depth perception in insects, which should help them understanding how human vision evolved. In the future this knowledge will allow developing new ways of adding 3D technology to computers and robots, which can be used to perform a greater variety of tasks than robots of today.


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