Science

Future of robotics vision is a praying mantis (wearing tiny red glasses)

Future of robotics vision is a praying mantis (wearing tiny red glasses)

In order to determine whether the praying mantis' 3D vision works in the same way as the humans', researchers from the Newcastle University in the United Kingdom outfitted a praying mantis with its very own 3D glasses, which were attached onto the mantis using beeswax.

Currently, algorithms to give robots vision require a lot of computing, which might be made easier by replicating the mantis' way of perceiving objects in 3D, also known as stereopsis.

Insects see the world very differently than we do, but researchers from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom now say that the praying mantis possesses one important element of human vision.

According to the team at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience, their findings on the insects' unique form of "stereo" sight, in which two views are merged to create a single image, could lead to important advances in robotics.

Humans (and most other vertebrates) brains gauge distance by combining images from the left and right eye, then analyzing the minute differences.

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Researchers have discovered the novel way that praying mantises' 3D vision works.

Who would've thought praying mantises had so much to teach us. The researchers discovered that the praying mantis successfully identified the prey in the movies.

The team used two types of movie - the first type was a clip of delicious moving insect prey hovering right in front of the mantis. As you might remember from the old red-and-blue 3D anaglyph images in magazines, humans can stereoscopically see still images just fine. The illusion is so good the mantises try to catch it. On the other hand, mantis don't need 3D vision to function in static image, as they are attacking only moving prey. They went a step further this time, taking a closer look at how mantises perceive objects in three dimensions. In other words, mantises' depth perception only focuses on objects or things that are changing. Additionally, they even tried to capture it.

The team suggests this is a completely new kind of 3D vision that uses motion instead of image similarity. "In mantises, it is probably created to answer the question, 'Is there prey at the right distance for me to catch?'"

What's more, when researchers presented the mantis with 2D dot patterns, which are normally used to test human 3D vision, they found that the mantis was actually able to detect the movement while completely ignoring the still images. The mantis is the only insect known to have stereo vision, but given its tiny brain, scientists have long suspected it must involve a simpler process.