Once the tiny spectacles are affixed with beeswax, the mantises are placed in front of a monitor that projects 3-D images, just like at the movies. By observing how the mantises react to various 3-D images, scientists expect to get a better idea of how the eyes and brain of the insect process moving images in three dimensions.
"Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency," explained lead researcher Dr. Jenny Read, professor at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University. "We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world."
The expectation -- or at least the hope -- is that praying mantises have a simpler way of doing things. If they can see in three dimensions, as humans do, but can accomplish such visual feats with a much smaller number of neurons, it would hold that their visual wiring is less complex and more efficient.
A less-convoluted path to 3-D vision could be immensely valuable to science and industry.
“This is a really exciting project to be working on," said Dr. Vivek Nityananda, one of Read's fellow researchers at the Newcastle University Institute of Neuroscience. "So much is still waiting to be discovered in this system. 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."