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Scientists are getting closer to knowing how animals see the world

Posted December 4, 2019

Our world is strongly based on our perceptions. Humans are able to expand the boundaries of understanding beyond our physiological limits, while animals can only trust their senses. Now scientists from The University of Queensland and the University of Exeter developed a technology, which can help us see what the world looks like through the eyes of animals.

Despite numerous studies, we are still not sure how exactly the world looks like for the cat or any other animal. Image credit: Luis Fernández García via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This is quite an interesting project. We always hear such things as “Dogs don’t see colour”, “Cats see very well in the dark”, “Bulls don’t recognize red” and so on and so forth. Some of these hypotheses can be true, but that is pretty much the extent of our knowledge about the vision of animals.

Scientists can research visual systems by analysing their anatomy. However, the disadvantage of this approach is that these systems are very different from what we have. They can be more or less complex and, therefore, we can only guess how these animals are seeing the world. We just cannot see the world through their eyes.

Scientists worked for four years to develop a software and hardware system, which combines image processing techniques with digital visualisation and analytical tools. Essentially, this tool analyses pictures, paying attention to colour patterns and is able to predict how this information would be perceived by different visual systems. Scientists are therefore able to see the world through the eyes of fish, birds, cats, insects and other animals. Best of all, a simple picture, made with a 100 dollar smartphone is enough for this system to work its magic.

More about this technology in this video:

Curiosity is always a huge motivation behind science projects like this one. We want to know what animals are seeing that we cannot see. However, this is much more than just food for curious minds. This technology can be very useful in different studies and conservation efforts. Dr Karen Cheney, one of the scientists behind the project, said: “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.”

This is already a very useful tool for scientists, doing all kind of research with animals. It will allow comparing visual perception of predators and herbivores. We can really learn a lot about how these animals survive and prosper. However, scientists are also excited about the possibility to build on this technology and make it even greater.


Source: University of Queensland

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