Stereo vision, also known as stereopsis, allows some animals including humans and mantises, to perceive their distance from objects. The insect can not see a still image in 3D; its stereo vision works only with moving objects.
To investigate how the praying mantis 3D vision works and differs from our own, the British researchers devised special, tiny 3D glasses that were temporarily glued to the heads of mantises with beeswax.
A praying mantis looks down a tube wearing its new glasses.
Basically, the researchers played a movie of tasty prey hovering right in front of the mantis - an illusion so realistic that the mantises tried to catch it with their famous claws.
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Unlike most insects, the praying mantis has two forward-facing eyes.
Scientists at Newcastle University made the specs because they wanted to find about more about the way these insects - praying mantises - see.
In a video released alongside the research, Jenny Read, study author and professor of vision science at Newcastle University, in the United Kingdom, first describes how human vision works: each human eye captures a slightly different picture of the world in front of us, creating a three-dimensional whole.
When hunting, a praying mantis remains motionless and strikes out at movement when its prey is in range. The results were fascinating: the mantises only responded to videos that showed their prey moving, and weren't fooled by still images of other bugs and creepy crawlies.
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The simplicity of the mantis's vision makes it an attractive model for vision in robotics, the scientists say. In comparison, human eyes tend to match up all the details seen by each eye to form one image. Even if you're not terribly interested in mantis vision, the way the team conducted this research is just delightful.
But mantises focus on where the brightness is actively changing between the two images, allowing them to tell the distance to their target even when it is camouflaged against a similar background, the study found.
"This is a completely new form of 3D vision as it is based on change over time instead of static images", Dr Vivek Nityananda, behavioural ecologist at Newcastle University, was quoted in a statement.
"In mantises it is probably created to answer the question 'is there prey at the right distance for me to catch?" said Dr. Vivek Nityananda from Newcastle University, coauthor of the study.
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As part of the wider research, a Newcastle University engineering student developed an electronic mantis arm which mimics the distinct striking action of the insect. For all intents and purposes, this works out nicely but the main drawback is that our form of stereo vision requires a lot of computer processing.
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