Scientists equip a praying mantis with the world's smallest 3D glasses

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. 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. 

While 3D video may not be very popular these days, someone’s still wearing 3D glasses — or rather, something. Newcastle University scientists are outfitting praying mantises withvery small 3D eyewear to test their depth perception, which is unique in the insect world; most species are limited to 2D. The researchers want to see if the bugs are fooled by the effects of a 3D movie like that you’d see in a theater. If they are, we’ll know that they evolved 3D vision similar to that of humans and monkeys. If they aren’t, things get interesting. That suggests that there’s a different approach to depth perception that could translate to simpler algorithms for 3D-sensing robots. It’s too soon to know how the mantis study will play out, so there’s no guarantee that it will lead to a biological or technological breakthrough. Think of it this way, though — if nothing else, Newcastle will have the world’s hippest-looking invertebrates on its hands.

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