Seeing the world through the eyes of animals

  Last updated December 4, 2019 at 3:14 pm

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Thanks to new technology, humans are one step closer to seeing what the world looks like to animals.





Why This Matters: Seriously, who doesn’t want to see how the world looks to their pets?




If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what the world looks like through the eyes of your cat or dog you’re not alone.


And now thanks to researchers from The University of Queensland and the University of Exeter, we might be a step closer to seeing the world through the eyes of animals.


Cedric van den Berg from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences says that, until now, it had been difficult to understand how animals saw the world.


“Most animals have completely different visual systems to humans, so for many species it is unclear how they see complex visual information or colour patterns in nature, or how this drives their behaviour.”


bee view of a forest animal vision eyes of animals

A bee’s perspective on the left, human on the right. Credit: Jolyon Troscianko, University of Exeter


Improving our ability to analyse visual information through animals


To solve that problem, the team of researchers developed The Quantitative Colour Pattern Analysis (QCPA) framework.


“The framework is a collection of software and hardware, combining innovative image processing techniques with digital visualisation and analytical tools,” says van den Berg.


“Collectively, these tools greatly improve our ability to analyse complex visual information through the eyes of animals.”




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coral reef diverThe QPCA is designed to analyse calibrated digital images from both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.


These images can be captured using both off-the-shelf cameras and purpose-built camera systems.


“You can even access most of its capabilities by using a $100 smartphone to capture footage,” van den Berg says.


It took four years to develop and test the technology, including the development of an extensive interactive online platform to provide researchers, teachers and students with user guides and tutorials.


Crossing the boundaries between human and animal visual perception


UQ’s Karen Cheney says that the framework could be applied to a wide range of environmental conditions and visual systems.


“The flexibility of the framework allows researchers to investigate the colour patterns and natural surroundings of a wide range of organisms such as insects, birds, fish and flowering plants,” she says.




Also: Four animals that can find their way around better than you




“For example, we can now truly understand the impacts of coral bleaching for camouflaged reef creatures in a new and informative way.


“We’re helping people to cross the boundaries between human and animal visual perception.


“It’s really a platform that anyone can build on, so we’re keen to see what future breakthroughs are ahead.”


The research is published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.


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