Do you know why it’s so hard to fly? Basically, because they see ten times faster than us. When we think we are aiming for a quick pest strike, what he sees is a threat creeping towards him in slow motion. We are uncomfortable and now we know it thanks to an extremely five-year effort to develop a virtual reality world for flies.
For the scientific team behind the world of VR for aviation insects –Prof. Shannon Olson and PhD student Pavan Kumar Kaushik from the Tatar Institute for Basic Research in Bengaluru, India, with Marian Renz from the University of Bielefeld, Germany ̵
An apple in their complex eye
The flies in question were apple flies, a type of specialized fruit fly. The Mediterranean fruit fly that adorns our homes in the Middle East will eat everything, land happily, consume, mate and lay its small eggs in decaying fruits, vegetables, onions, bread, even cat food and gloomy kitchen rags in a pinch. it is not vain. This is a sensible evolutionary strategy because it will always find something to eat and infect.
The work was done in India, which has flies. But the team chose to work with the American apple fly as a test of the virtual reality world, which was based on a vision that Prof. Olson has been working on for years, with the VR world being built by Mr. Kaushik. “He only likes apples on apple trees; mated on apples; lays eggs on apples; eat apples; the apple is the apple of her eye, ”Olson explained to Haaretz.
Darwin will be terrible, but their choice is a convenience if one builds a virtual reality world for flying insects. Not only because the apple fly is beautiful as the flies go, with black and white zebra stripes and further iridescent intricate eyes, but the main advantage is that it has only one purpose: apples.
Building the world’s VR for a common fruit fly to explore its search and navigation mechanisms would be impossible: anything can be achieved, Olson notes. “When you want to know if they would recognize objects [in the VR world] you want to choose an animal that you know the object you like – it will go to the apple tree. If it doesn’t, we’ve done something wrong. ”
Why did they build a virtual reality world that included apple trees? Because flies have shown navigational skills to fly to food and companions, it would be helpful for pest controllers to understand how they accomplish this “computationally intensive in-flight feat, especially on a large spatial scale,” the team said.
It took five years to create VR for the apple fly world, Shannon confided, because he must first notice how the insect looks at the world. There is no point in testing our skills if we put it in a virtual film made for people. Not only do they have complex eyes, but they see much faster than we do.
Human films are projected at 24 frames per second. “In order for insects to see a movie, they need 200 to 300 frames per second,” explains the professor. “Under 200 frames per second, they would see the individual images flicker, just like we do at 10 frames per second.”
Which explains why we wave our flytraps in vain. “They see you coming much faster than you see them,” she concludes.
He turned a fly
Virtual reality for people can have side effects such as nausea, disorientation and headaches (after removing the handset). We have no information on whether the apple fly felt touching after the experiments, but unlike paying tourists to malls, the subject fly is tied up to watch the movie. Learning this, one cannot help but have an alarming Clockwork Orange flashback.
“We used attached insects for a specific reason – when insects are ‘free’, we can’t know exactly what they see, feel or smell at a given moment and therefore why they’re moving in the direction they did,” Olson told Haaretz. “Binding insects (which is more like a harness – we don’t pierce or otherwise injure the insect so that they survive the experiments), we can move the world and its sights and smells around the insect and better understand how move in at all times, ”she explains.
Asked for more details, she said: “I had a Tedx conversation about this study and so many people asked how you could torture flies. They actually stay in place. They may not have had fun, but then they were fine. We fed them while they were tied up, “she added reassuringly to Fruit Fly Rights defenders among us, adding:” This was not done. ”
So what was it? “You can think of a tie as a fixed strap or harness,” Olson said. “We attached a small needle to the top of their thoracic exoskeleton (for where their shoulders would be if there were any) using a small drop of glue under a microscope. This keeps them in place, but allows them to move their legs and wings freely. We often fed them during experiments with a small ball soaked in sugar, which they could hold with their feet and lick like a lollipop. They can then be returned to our breeding room. ”
And they were fine with that? Olson agreed that it was “difficult to understand how difficult this experience was for them. But we noticed that the flies flew in the world of VR sometimes for hours and always had the opportunity to stop at what point we would end the experiment. Our love for insects and their importance to the planet is what inspired us to do this research, so we always took care to treat them with respect, helping us get into their amazing, tiny minds. ”
The team found that apple flies use multiple sensor inputs to locate and navigate virtual apple trees in a complex 3D landscape that mimics their natural environment, including “dynamic 3D visuals, windy landscapes, and the flow of odors over large spatial and temporal scales.” . ”
Here is another movie from what the fly saw.
Bottom line: flies actually target flowers or trees. Apple flies are more likely to approach nearby trees than distant trees. The significance is that flies can estimate distance using depth signals as a parallels for perspective and movement. They were also clearly attracted to the scent. “Taken together, the findings show that flying insects integrate multiple types of sensory signals to locate and navigate virtual objects in a complex 3D landscape,” the team concludes.
And it’s useful, how? “The results can be used to optimize pest control strategies, crop pollination and disease vector management.” As for us, remember, go ahead and try to figure out which way the fly will go and direct your flow there.