How to hack animals using virtual reality technologies (#39)
In order to survive in their
natural environments, animals have to detect their surroundings, extract
information, and behave in an appropriate manner. For example, animals need to
find prey quickly and capture it effectively. They must also rapidly discriminate
friends from foes. Although several sensory modalities are involved in
generating an adaptive behaviour, many animal species depend greatly on their
visual systems to adapt to environments. Previous studies of the visual systems
of animals have employed several experimental techniques, such as actual
physical stimuli, computer still images, and videotaped images. Each technique
has its own advantages, but researchers have found that it is difficult to
systematically control and manipulate various features of a complex stimulus. For
example, it is difficult to control living animals and motion information
cannot be obtained from still images.
However, virtual reality technologies, including computer animations, tracking technologies, display engineering, and cognitive science, can provide useful and effective tools for studying the visual systems and behaviour of animals in laboratory environments. In this symposium, we will introduce a method for creating virtual visual stimuli (e.g., water fleas and medaka fish) and the results of psychophysical experiments. We will discuss the extent to which realistic virtual stimuli contribute to animal behaviour research, and we hope to give you a feel for the development of “animal hacking” technologies (detailed analysis and manipulation).