Stereopsis without correspondence

Stereopsis has traditionally been considered a complex visual ability, restricted
to large-brained animals. The discovery in the 1980s that insects, too, have
stereopsis, therefore, challenged theories of stereopsis. How can such simple
brains see in three dimensions? A likely answer is that insect stereopsis has
evolved to produce simple behaviour, such as orienting towards the closer
of two objects or triggering a strike when prey comes within range. Scientific
thinking about stereopsis has been unduly anthropomorphic, for example
assuming that stereopsis must require binocular fusion or a solution of the
stereo correspondence problem. In fact, useful behaviour can be produced
with very basic stereoscopic algorithms which make no attempt to achieve
fusion or correspondence, or to produce even a coarse map of depth across
the visual field. This may explain why some aspects of insect stereopsis
seem poorly designed from an engineering point of view: for example,
paying no attention to whether interocular contrast or velocities match. Such
algorithms demonstrably work well enough in practice for their species, and
may prove useful in particular autonomous applications.
This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘New approaches to 3D
vision’.
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DateMarch 1, 2023
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