Praying Mantises Given World's Tiniest 3-D Glasses

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British neuroscientists recently outfitted praying mantises with a little pair of 3-D glasses. They wanted to see if the insects can be tricked by 3-D images — like humans watching a blockbuster in 3D.

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Praying mantises have stereoscopic vision, unlike most invertebrates. This makes them sophisticated hunters, and ideal subjects for a team from Newcastle University led by vision scientist Jenny Read. By putting 3-D glasses on the mantises and faking them out, Reid and her colleagues want to learn how the insect’s vision differs from ours. Hat tip Engadget.

“hat could open up all kinds of possibilities to create much simpler algorithms for programming 3-D vision into robots,” said Vivek Nityananda, a neuroscience research associate working with Read, in a university press release.

To conduct the vision testing, the scientists attach what the university says are the world’s tiniest pair of 3-D glasses to an insect using beeswax. Then the mantis is placed in front of computer monitor that displays images in 3D. One image is a circle that appears to be an object coming right at the insect, intended to elicit a strike. Afterward, the glasses are taken off and the mantis goes back to a room where it gets fed.

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If the researchers can fool the praying mantises into making errors in judgment about depth, it will prove that they actually are judging 3D, Nityananda explained in a short video. All for the sake of creating robots with better vision. Fortunately there are rules governing robotics and ethics, otherwise I’d worry about a real Terminator in our future.

Photo: A praying mantis dons 3-D glasses for a vision test. Credit: Newcastle University, YouTube

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