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New research finds people and pigeons see eye to eye

DURHAM, N.H. Pigeons and humans use similar visual cues to identify objects, a finding that could have promising implications in the development of novel technologies, according to new research conducted by a University of New Hampshire professor.

Brett Gibson, an assistant professor of psychology who studies animal behavior, details his latest research in the journal article, Non-accidental properties underlie shape recognition in mammalian and non-mammalian vision, published today in Current Biology. Gibson and his colleagues found that humans and pigeons, which have different visual systems, have evolved to use similar techniques and information to recognize objects.

Understanding how avian visual systems solve problems that require considerable computational prowess may lead to future technological advances, such as small visual prosthetics for the visually impaired, in the same way that understanding visual processing in honeybees has led to the development of flying robots and unmanned helicopters, the researchers say.

So a software engineer who wants to design a program to help a robot recognize objects can get a leg up from evolution, which has been developing programs for object recognition in animals long before humans ever thought of doing such things, Gibson says. To the extent that we can learn how different animals recognize objects and whether they are doing the same things or different things based on their environments may really help us in designing our own system of object recognition.

Gibson and his colleagues from the University of Iowa (Olga Lazareva and Edward Wasserman), the University of Montreal (Frdric Gosselin), and the University of Glasgow (Philippe Schyns) found that pigeons, like humans, primarily rely on corners (coterminations) of an object in order to recognize it instead of relying on other features such as shading and color.

For example, a person could easily identify a AA bat
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Contact: Lori Wright
lori.wright@unh.edu
603-862-0574
University of New Hampshire
20-Feb-2007


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