The 3D vision that praying mantises have, may help scientists improve computer depth perception in years to come, according to a new paper.
A research team at Newcastle University found that the praying mantises an order of insects that has over 2,400 species – actually rely on stereopsis or 3D (three dimensional) vision.
Study leader Dr. Jenny Read, a professor of vision science at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, said that although praying mantises have minuscule brains, these insects are very successful visual hunters. A lot can be learnt from studying the praying mantises’ perception of the world, Dr. Read added.
Dr. Ghaith Tarawneh, a research associate on the Newcastle team, said that instead of using red and blue lenses – which are normally used for regular 3D glasses – the researchers decided to use blue and green lenses, because mantises cannot see red light so well.
In the experiment, the mantis was placed on a platform in front of a computer screen, where it first looked at flat images. Once the researchers gave the insect the 3D glasses, it began sticking at the screen, because it saw the images three-dimensional, according to Dr. Tarawneh. The mantis was fooled into thinking that bugs were really close to it, which is why the critter attacked the screen, Tarawneh added.
For the study, the researchers designed small 3D glasses that they attached with beeswax, and an “insect cinema.” Dr. Vivek Nityananda, a research associate at Newcastle University, was the one who crafted the tiny 3D cinema glasses for the praying mantis. He then attached the glasses to the insect’s head using beeswax, which allowed them to be easily removed.
The new findings may be useful for robotics, the researchers said. Many industries and companies all over the world want to build autonomous robots that may one day take over jobs that humans find too dangerous to perform, or perhaps be like Nadine, a humanoid robot.
According to Dr. Tarawneh, 3D vision plays an important role in robot navigation, because robots rely on information from their environment based on visual input. The fact that mantises, which have relatively tiny brains, are capable of making complex depth calculations, could lead to improved algorithms for depth perception in computers.
Tarawneh said that the observations and data on how the brains of mantises work could one day help map the same technology for robotics.
The new findings were published January 7 in the journal Scientific Reports.
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