Research looking at 3-D perception in insects has interesting scientific applications ... but oh the photos.
What do you do if you're a researcher interested in studying 3-D vision in invertebrates? Make miniature glasses and a specially-designed insect cinema, of course. Which is exactly what a team from Newcastle University, UK have done. And in doing so, they proved that mantises use 3-D vision – providing a new model to improve visual perception in robots.
While I don't really enjoy seeing any living creature subjected to the rigors of science (I'm hoping the subjects were retired to a nearby grassy field after their adventures at the lab) this research is pretty incredible and follows up on the 1980's work by Samuel Rossel using prisms and occluders to prove the visual prowess of praying mantises. The Newcastle team elaborated by developing 3-D glasses designed specifically for the insects allowing the scientists to show images of their choice and thus opening up new avenues of research.
The mantises were fitted with wee spectacles attached with beeswax and were shown short videos of simulated bugs moving around a computer screen. In 2-D, the insects had little interest, but when the clips were shown in 3-D, the mantises struck out showing that they use 3-D vision.
"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," says study leader, Jenny Read, Professor of Vision Science.
"Better understanding of their simpler processing systems helps us understand how 3-D vision evolved, and could lead to possible new algorithms for 3-D depth perception in computers," she adds.
To read more about the research, head over to Scientific Reports where the work was published.