Studying how mantises see in 3-D could provide clues about how 3-D vision evolved in the natural world and lead to new techniques in implementing 3-D recognition and depth perception in computer vision and robotics.
According to National Geographic, praying mantises are excellent hunters, turning their heads 180 degrees to survey their surroundings with two sizable compound eyes and three other simple eyes positioned between them.
“Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency,” said Jenny Read from the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University. “We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world.”
“If we find that the way mantises process 3D vision is very different to the way humans do it, then that could open up all kinds of possibilities to create much simpler algorithms for programming 3D vision into robots,” added Vivek Nityananda, also of the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University.
The researchers say it is also possible the 3-D vision in mantises, who are the only invertebrates known to have this ability, is more like that of vertebrates, where differences between the positions of an object’s image in the two eyes can be recognized and utilized to show the object’s position, even when the object is hidden and thus imperceptible to either eye individually. This would indicate that mantises have independently evolved similar 3-D processing to vertebrates.
The researchers are using beeswax to attach the world’s tiniest pair of 3-D glasses to the mantises, and placing the invertebrates in front of computer-produced images, presented on computer screens.
Following the experiments, the researchers take off the glasses, and place the mantises back in the insect room.
“We try and fool them into making errors in judgement about depth, which would then prove to us that they are actually judging 3-D,” Nityananda explained in a short video about the experiment posted to YouTube.
The researchers hope to determine whether mantises can see the moving object standing out in depth in a similar way to humans and monkeys.
They will utilize data from behavioral observations as well as electrophysiological recordings to help model potential neural algorithms that can be utilized in technology while concurrently offering clues about the evolution of 3-D vision in nature.
Photo credit: YouTube/Newcastle University