Virtual reality helps scientists to see how we see
Oxford scientists are using the latest virtual reality technology to study how we perceive the world in 3D. The “immersive virtual reality” used by the Virtual Reality Research Group at Oxford University allows subjects to walk around or look up and down while what they see through a headset changes accordingly – they can explore the virtual environment by literally walking around. Meanwhile, the scientists monitor how they are perceiving the dimensions of their ‘Matrix’-style world.
The researchers want to investigate how our visual system converts a 2D image on the retina into a 3D representation of the world – especially when we move around. Dr Andrew Glennerster, who heads the research group, explains: “Normally, as we move around, our eyes jump from object to object about three times a second, yet we are quite unaware of any change. We are also unaware of the swirling patterns of motion that are generated on the retina as we move in a static environment. How does the brain make sense of all this rapidly changing visual information?” By controlling that changing visual information using immersive virtual reality, the researchers can see how the brain reacts to specific visual cues.
In the experiments, visual environments are experienced in real time as the subject, wearing a headset projecting images to each eye, moves around. “The equipment tracks the observer’s head, arm and eye movements and changes the images the eyes see through the headset so as to mimic the changes that would occur if they were exploring a real environment,” explains Dr Glennerster. Previous research into 3D vision has usually been done with the observer’s head clamped in one position.
The virtual reality system can also play tricks on the observer, to study how the brain reacts to controlled variations. In one experiment, the scene gradually expands as the observer walks through it. The researchers have found the observer’s assumption that the room has stayed the same size is so strong that it seems to overcome evidence from motion parallax and binocular disparity (the normal visual cues for shape and size): people can be fooled into thinking two objects are the same size even when one is four times larger than the other.
The project draws together various disciplines, with psychologists and physiologists working in collaboration with engineers in the robotics group at Oxford. The research is in relatively early stages, but it could yield exciting results. “Very few experiments have ever been carried out that test how the brain represents 3D while a person is moving,” says Dr Glennerster. “This forms part of a bigger question troubling neuroscience – how is information from different times and places linked together in the brain in a coherent way?”
Ruth Collier | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...