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
A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues
16.08.2017 | University of Oxford
Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
20.09.2017 | Life Sciences
20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy