Think eyeglasses are just a human thing? Think again. As part of ongoing research into the origins of three-dimensional vision, praying mantises are being fitted with tiny 3D glasses.
Sounds buggy, but the team of scientists behind the research claim that the tiny spectacles--said to be the world's smallest--could help explain how three-dimensional vision evolved and lead to advances in computer vision.
"If we find that the way mantises process 3D vision is very different to the way humans do it, then that could open up all kinds of possibilities to create much simpler algorithms for programming 3D vision into robots," Dr. Vivek Nityananda, a research associate at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience, said in a written statement released by the university.
Why mantises and not some other insect? Because mantises are the only insect proven to have 3D vision, or stereopsis, Dr. Jennifer Read, a reader in vision science at the university and the leader of the team, told The Huffington Post in an email. In addition to mantises and humans, she said, stereopsis is known to exist in macaques, cats, horses, sheep, rabbits, toads, and barn owls.
"Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency," Read said in the statement. "We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world."
For their research, the scientists use beeswax to affix the 5-millimeter glasses to the mantises (or mantids) and then observe the insects as they respond to images on a computer screen. The glasses fool the mantises into misjudging depth, just as our brains are fooled when we watch 3D movies.
After the conclusion of their screen time, the little guys go back into the facility's insect room, where they feast on their usual diet of crickets.
If the bugs are bugged by the glasses, they don't show it.
The spectacles are "small enough that they don't get in the mantid's way as it goes about its normal mantid business," Read said in an email to The Huffington Post. "As a result, the mantids seem quite happy wearing them and don't try to rub them off."