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Here’s Why Scientists Are Giving Tiny Glasses To Insects

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Researchers are equipping praying mantises with stylish 3D shades — and not just for fun. 


The tiny glasses were used in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday to analyze 3D vision in mantises, and to explore how they use their vision to hunt. 


Better understanding how the insects use 3D vision may help scientists develop new ideas about how to use 3D in technology, Dr. Jenny Read, professor of vision science at Newcastle University in England and the study’s leader, said in a statement.


“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,” she said. “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.”


The glasses were attached to the mantises with beeswax, and they allowed the researchers to show the insects short movies of simulated bugs moving around on the screen, which the mantises viewed as prey.


It turned out that when the video was shown in 2D, the mantises didn’t react, but when it was shown in 3D, the mantises attacked, Discovery News reported. (See the video above.)


“Well, 3D vision has loads of applications, like robot navigation,” Dr. Ghaith Tarawneh, a research associate at the university and a co-author of the study, told The Christian Science Monitor. “Robots rely on getting information from the environments. You want the robot to understand somehow its environment and perhaps move towards particular goals and it needs some sort of understanding of the environment based on visual input.”


Check out the mantises sporting their glasses below.


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