Newcastle scientists inspect insects in specs

Scientists in Newcastle have successfully demonstrated that praying mantis insects do see in 3-D - after fitting some of the insects with miniature 3-D glasses.

They say the research will help improve the vision of robots.

The praying mantis seems surprised at what it can see through its 3D spectacles. Credit: ITV News

In an experiment that began almost a year ago, tiny 3D glasses have been made for praying mantises to help scientists understand sight.

In the experiments, mantises fitted with tiny glasses attached with beeswax were shown short videos of simulated bugs moving around a computer screen.

The mantises didn't try to catch the bugs when they were in 2D.

But when the bugs were shown in 3D, apparently floating in front of the screen, the mantises struck out at them.

This shows that mantises do indeed use 3D vision.

The stuff of science fiction. Credit: ITV News

"Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency. We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world. Better understanding of their simpler processing systems helps us understand how 3D vision evolved, and could lead to possible new algorithms for 3D depth perception in computers."

– Jenny Read, Professor of Vision Science, Newcastle University

Watch: Dr Ghaith Tarawneh from Newcastle University, who says It is very exciting because insects are really simple beings and you wouldn't think they have the same level of perception as we do but obviously our experiments have demonstrated this.

Watch Professor Jenny Read, Professor of Vision Science at Newcastle University, who says we're going to compare it to how human 3D vision works.

We are going to compare it to how human 3D vision works. Is it the same? - in which case, that would be amazing that insects and humans have separately evolved basically the same sort of 3D vision, or perhaps even more interestingly, it is possible that insects have come up with a kind of cheap and cheerful 3D.

Newcastle scientist with glasses-wearing praying mantis. Credit: ITV News

The Newcastle University team will now continue the research examining the algorithms used for depth perception in insects to better understand how human vision evolved and to develop new ways of adding 3D technology to computers and robots.