Sunday, 6 November 2016

Social Science Show - Reality and Image

Interesting show at Wollaton Hall recently, as part of the ESRC's "Festival of Social Science". A few images and notes below...

Part of the show looked at how the mind reacts when visual inputs are messed about with. For example, some special goggles were on hand that shifted a persons vision so that what appeared to be straight ahead was actually slightly to one side.

An one might expect, if (while wearing the goggles) you try to touch a pencil held at arms length your finger will miss the target - but after a few goes your mind learns to compensate and ones aim gets better.

But take the goggles off and you start missing the pencil again until your mind recalibrates again

Image Shifting Goggles

Another section looked at the photographs and what makes them look "real", this has resulted in a photographic manipulation technique called "Fovograph" which aims to replicate the way people look at a scene - with higher resolution at the centre and with slight distortion at the sides. You can find out more about the at the Cardiff Metropolitan University website, which describes the project thusly:

"The main purpose of Fovolab is to better understand the nature of visual experience and how to depict it. We do this by combining knowledge and methods from the art, sciences and humanities, each of which has a role to play in solving the complex issues involved.

We have developed a process called Fovography that overcomes these limitations. It allows us to capture the full field of view (hence the prefix ‘fov’) and present it on a flat surface in a way that appears natural to human perceptions. Moreover, because we represent the human visual field in a natural way the resulting images appear to have much more breadth and much more depth than conventional images. This means we can create, in effect, 3D visual experiences without glasses, goggles, or expensive screens."

Fovography didn't really work for NSB because what NSB prioritises in an image is resolution, focus and being distortion free. But looking at what other people thought of the images suggests that this was a minority view.

You can vote on how the images look yourself at a survey page at Cardiff University.

Related to this were some images by artist Robert Pepperell who attempted to produce drawings that showed what he was actually seeing - complete with lack of focus in peripheral vision - in comparison to a photo of the scene.

Image of room and Pepperells's perception of it - Interesting stuff

There was also an interesting section where people, young and old, could take part in a "Stroop Test" to see how capable their mind was of ignoring background audio when asked to identify the colour of blocks appearing on a screen (so, for example, avoiding identifying a green block as blue just because a voice through the headphones says "blue".

The aim of the project was to see whether the ability to ignore distractions changes with age, and whether the effect is greater with written or spoken distractions. Rebeccca Hirst, researcher on the project explained to NSB how this was an interesting area of research, with many factors in play - for example, children tend to be rather susceptible to spoken distractions, while adults may have some ability (through experience) to "tune out" some distractions. Rebecca also explained how the project took care to account for variables such as the decline in hearing ability with ageing.

The project is supervised by Harriet Allen whose description of the project comments that:

" I research the links between vision, attention and ageing. How does an instruction to attend to an item get translated into the visual system? How do changes in goals (for example, to do with food, or clinical state) change this? Attention might enhance vision in a number of ways. Attention might simply speed up how quickly we respond to a stimulus, it might make us more likely accept that a stimulus is present, it might reduce the noise associated with the stimulus or increase the signal perceived from the stimulus...

...As well as being interested in the effects of attention on vision, I’m interested in how these change with age. If we try to look for our friend arriving at the station, we could enhance the representation of any new person arriving on the scene, we could suppress the representations of people and things already visible, or both."

You can read more about this subject in a paper by Maria J S Guerreiro et al entitled "The role of sensory modality in age-related distraction: a critical review and a renewed view."

Do you want to try the Stroop Test?

Elsewhere there a display looking at stereo vision, which included "Magic Eye" images and a pair of glasses (a "Wheatstone Stereoscope") that had mirrors which gave one vision as though your eyes were further apart - this had the effect of increasing perception of depth of field.

A paper by Jenny Read fron the University of Newcastle entitled "What is stereoscopic vision good for?" was also available, and is well worth reading.

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