Can glasses that make you see like mantis shrimp be created?


Can glasses that make you see like mantis shrimp be created?

In: Technology

No. The human eye has four kinds of light-detecting cells. This limits the number of ‘colors’ we can see to four, but since one of these times is mostly indiscriminate to color, the number is actually three.

Glasses can block out some colors that rest ‘between’ the colors we see, causing improved color sharpness (how enchroma glasses work), but they cannot change this basic limit of three colors.

We have three color receptors in our eyes, able to differentiate the spectrum from post-ultraviolet to pre-infrared. Glasses aren’t going to add an additional 13 receptors in the eye. Sorry. 乁( •_• )ㄏ

The other commenters here have addressed colour perception very well and it’s bad news there.

There’s another way a mantis shrimp’s vision is special, which is that they can perceive the polarization of light.

Polarized light is a weird idea. You’ve probably heard that light is a wave. One property that a light wave can have, is what direction it ‘waves’ in. Light that’s coming into your eyes can be waving up-and-down, or left-and-right, or any diagonal direction in between. Or, it can be a mixture of waves waving every-which-way. Reflecting off certain materials in certain ways can make light polarize one way or another, so the polarization can tell you information about the shape and contour of what you’re looking at.

Mantis shrimp can see what direction the light is polarized in, because the openings of their eyes have a squiggly, narrow shape which obstructs the light in just the right way.

Naturally, we can’t see the polarity of light. But we do have polarizing *filters* which will ‘flatten’ the incoming light to only light polarized in one direction, and block any light going the other direction. And one thing we use those filters for is to make sunglasses. If you wear polarized sunglasses, you’ll be seeing the world filtered so as to show you only one component – maybe the horizontal component – of the light that’s coming in.

The mantis shrimps can see both at once, and see different polarities of light in different ways at the same time, and wearing sunglasses you can only see one at a time. But try tilting your head from side to side while you’re wearing them. You might notice that certain parts of what you’re looking at darken, and others lighten, as you’re tilting your head back and forth. Especially try doing it if you’re looking at a lake or something like that. [eta: Anything made of transparent plastic or acrylic, is probably a good thing to try looking at too. Explore and you may find certain views where the effect is much more dramatic.] That might give you some *tiny* glimpse of what it’d be like to see polarity.

According to [this research published in Nature](, they don’t appear to discriminate between colors that are very close together. This would imply that though they have more types of photoreceptors, they don’t actually perceive much more color-wise than humans do. Someone else here mentioned polarized light also, which you can to some extent do with certain types of glasses.

So for the most part, yes, but also, we don’t fully understand how they process light. So there may be particular details to their perception that we simply don’t understand, making it unclear if it would be possible. Since we don’t have shrimp brains, it seems unlikely to ever get the full experience, though at a basic level we kind of already see like them.