Animals can teach us a lot about the world, which is why we’re always dragging them into our scientific experiments. While some of this research is downright cruel and unnecessary, some is more bizarre than anything else. In a recent project at Newcastle University neuroscientists strapped the world’s tiniest pair of 3D glasses onto a praying mantis, and then expose the bug to a series of weird 3D videos. Strange as it may sound, the researchers say the project could reveal important clues about how 3D vision evolved, and lead to novel approaches in implementing 3D recognition and depth perception in computers and robots.
The praying mantis may be tiny, but it’s an incredibly fierce predator. They have stereoscopic vision, which makes them unique among invertebrates. “Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency,” said the study’s Dr. Jenny Read. “We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world.”
Using bee’s wax (not glue), Read and her colleague Dr. Vivek Nityananda attached the tiny 3D glasses to a praying mantis. Then, they placed the bug in front of computer-generated images to see how it reacted. The idea is to trick the mantis them into misjudging depth, the same way that our brains are tricked when we watch a 3D movie.”
The experiment will determine if mantids can see moving 3D objects in a similar way to humans and monkeys. “The research project will use data from behavioural observations as well as electrophysiological recordings to help model potential neural algorithms that can be used in technology while simultaneously shedding light on the evolution of 3D vision in the natural world,” states a press release.
Image and video via Newcastle University