We judge distance from the ground up.
Our brains use angular measurements to decide how far away objects are.
Even if trigonometry wasn’t your strong suit in school, your brain uses it constantly. You judge distance by measuring the angle between the ground and your line of sight to an object, a new study shows. The finding could improve the design of robots and artificial vision systems1.
Volunteers who looked through prisms that increased this angle thought objects were closer than they really were, missing them when throwing beanbags or trying to walk to them blindfolded.
The long view
The idea that humans use the angle with the ground to measure distance is an old one. Ancient Chinese artists drew distant objects higher in the field of view, unlike European artists who generally relied on perspective, in which lines meet at infinity. The eleventh-century Arabic scholar Alhazen, whom some credit with having invented the scientific method, also hypothesized that humans use angles with the ground to judge distances.
Alhazen’s idea faded from attention over the years, and was resurrected only in the middle of the twentieth century, when psychologist James Gibson independently reached the same conclusion while helping to train pilots during World War II. Since then, however, the theory has lacked direct evidence.
For this reason, "this new study is quite important work," says Sedgwick. Ooi and colleagues have, he believes, produced "convincing evidence supporting the ground theory".
Understanding how humans process vision could help engineers to design more realistic virtual-reality systems and build robots that can navigate their environment better, Ooi suggests. It could even help people suffering from brain damage that interferes with their distance estimation, she says. "Research to elucidate space vision should help us predict the problems encountered by brain-injured patients, and to fix their problems through rehabilitation or compensatory robotic devices."
ERICA KLARREICH | © Nature News Service
New dental implant with built-in reservoir reduces risk of infections
18.01.2017 | KU Leuven
Many muons: Imaging the underground with help from the cosmos
19.12.2016 | DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences