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What do scientists make mantis glasses wear to watch 3D movies?

The answer is to make a breakthrough in the science of computer vision.

Experiments with mantises wearing 3D glasses and watching abstract and fantasy movies have revealed to us how they see the world in three dimensions. The results of this study could significantly improve computer vision for robots that need to measure distances, such as drones. But above all, thanks to this experience, we know what a mantis looks like without glasses: it’s so cute!

Carnivorous insects are famous for the fact that the female “meat” the male immediately after intercourse. However, the mantis is also known for another special ability: it is the only insect (known to humans) that can see the 3D world similar to ours.

However, understanding how the mantis brain works is not an easy task, as it is impossible to ask it directly, “What do you see?” »Write in search be. This is why scientists have developed a “3D cinema for insects”, and also created micro 3D glasses to give them a more precise overview of how mantises analyze at close range. According to a study published Thursday in Current Biology, they found that mantis brains remove unnecessary background information to focus on a moving target.

It is completely different from the human brain. In order for us to be able to visualize 3D space from the 2D image of each eye, we need to combine the two images into one. By comparing the similarities and differences of two images, our brains can calculate what is near and what is far. But if the two images are too different – for example, one eye looks at a photo of a forest and the other eye looks at a car on a highway, the merging process will not be complete.

To find out if mantises are like this, scientists have created a 3D cinema that shows videos of moving dots. One of these points, called a target, is shaped like a mantis prey. The idea behind this initiative is that if the 2D screen is seen in 3D by the insect, it will attempt to grab the target. In order to grasp which part of the scene plays a key role in the mantis’ 3D view, the research team is constantly changing the background.

The mantis had to watch these images with classic 3D glasses with two different colored lenses. Making glasses for them was difficult, but putting them on was even more difficult. Unlike humans, their ears are not in a favorable position for wearing glasses (one ear is located in the middle of the muscular chest). Therefore, the researchers had to glue the glasses to their faces with non-toxic white beeswax.

“This method is quite effective, it’s just a shame that mantises don’t like glasses very much,” said Vivek Nityananda, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University who also led the project. “The next day when we returned to the lab, we found them removing their glasses and having to put them back on.”

The result of the experiment was that for the mantis, the background details were not that important. Each of their eyes can see different scenes: as long as both eyes can see the prey and the prey is moving, the mantis can guess the distance and pounce on it.

It makes perfect sense that the mantis imaging system is tuned for movement. They usually stay lying down, waiting for the prey to pass in front of them before starting to hunt. So her little brain pushes out annoying information in the distance and focuses on when dinner will arrive. This discovery could lead to a breakthrough for robots such as drones, helping them determine near and far distances. This team designs mantis-inspired algorithms to improve computer vision. “Based on what we know about human 3D systems, the results of this study are astounding,” Nityananda said.

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