A specially designed insect cinema may sound like a set piece from a Wes Anderson film, but researchers at Newcastle University have used one to confirm that the praying mantis uses 3D perception, opening the door to improving visual perception in robots.
The mantises had to be given a pair of miniature 3D glasses in order to perceive particular tests being shown in the tiny cinema and are thought to use their 3D vision for hunting prey.
To test the 3D vision of the insects, the team fitted the mantises with tiny glasses and showed them short videos of bugs moving around a screen. In 2D, the mantises made no attempt to catch the bugs — in 3D, however, when the bugs appeared to float in front or on top of the screen, the mantises attempted to catch them.
It’s not the first research into 3D vision in invertebrates — Samuel Rossel demonstrated 3D vision in mantises back in the 1980s. But because his work only included prisms and occluders, the images he could show the insects was limited. With the newly designed 3D glasses, however, the team can show the insects a wider variety of images, leading to new channels of research.
“Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency,” said study leader Jenny Read. “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“.