The eyes have it

18 June 2019

John Perrone
Vision expert Professor John Perrone

How do our eyes see in 3D, even when we’re looking at a flat screen? Why does the world appear still when we move our eyes? The mysteries of human vision have long been explored by University of Waikato vision scientist Professor John Perrone.

He’ll be talking about his discoveries at a public lecture on 2 July, the sixth in the University of Waikato Hamilton Public Lecture Series. His lecture is titled Why the world does not look flat to Cyclops or one-eyed pirates: The role of visual motion in human depth perception.

Professor Perrone is based in the School of Psychology at the university and his research fits within the general area of visual perception and visual neuroscience. He says knowing how humans and animals use vision to navigate through the world (self-motion) is an important topic within psychology and in the general field of neuroscience. It also has many important practical applications, for example in robotics, aerospace and driving research.

In his public lecture, Professor Perrone will explain how the eyes and brain work together to automatically enable us to judge our motion through the world and to see the position and distance of obstacles in front of us.

“With a single eye, humans can extract three-dimensional depth information about the environment in front of them from just the light projected onto the back of the eye,” he says.

Brain eye

“This is an amazing ability, because the back of the eye is essentially a flat two-dimensional surface. The eye is far superior at doing this compared to what any camera can currently do, and if we can understand how the brain extracts 3D information from 2D images, that knowledge can be used to design smarter sensors for robots and self-driving cars.”

Professor Perrone is working with University of Waikato electronics engineer Associate Professor Michael Cree on a $1 million MBIE-funded project to increase our understanding of biologically based visual sensors for autonomous flight control and robotics.

Before coming to Waikato, Professor Perrone spent time working at NASA Ames Research Centre in the USA, working with vision scientists there to develop computer models of primate visual motion processing and navigation, and where he contributed to one of the first computer models of early motion processing in the primate brain. He continues to use computer modelling and psychophysical procedures in his work.

His skills have even been called in by NIWA, who sought advice on methods of studying visual aspects of water quality and where he used a range of psychophysical procedures for testing people's sensitivity to changes in the visual aspects of water in rivers and lakes. He has continued to collaborate with researchers at the National Eye Institute, USA and the University of Sydney. s.

Professor Perrone’s lecture takes place on Tuesday 2 July at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts at 5.45pm.

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