Our researchers, supervisors and partners across Europe are all finding their way through this new reality. Ellen De Korte, based at the University of Bradford, has shared some insight into how she plans to work and live during the lockdown period in the UK.
“I start my day with a 15-minute power yoga workout. While we are still able to go outside for an hour, I plan to walk to the nearest park if I can over lunchtimes. In order to maintain a bit of structure and combat loneliness, I make a schedule of whom I speaking to (either on the phone or video-conferencing) on a nice Yorkshire themed calendar“
Ellen has also shared a picture of her “home office” set-up.
From the perspective of a former game developer – Baran Usta
As a former developer, and avid gamer, I was very excited to be part of Yorkshire Games Festival, as part of my secondment at the National Science and Media Museum. It is not only because I got to listen to exciting talks given by the professionals working in the game industry, but also because of the training and workshops prepared for the enthusiastic students who are planning to be involved in this industry. The industry is vast, however, and there are various ways to take part. These range from being a designer to being an organizer of an e-sport event. As a former developer who had a chance to observe different stages of publishing a game, from conception to release, I was curious more about how these professionals were going to give talks about their expertise to such a diverse audience and communicate their messages. I have always found that very challenging. What I was looking forward to observing, was how they can convey abstract details and concepts while simultaneously bringing everybody to the same level of understanding. Although the game conference was organized more for the people who are exploring the career options in the industry, there were a lot of activities organized for the high school students to learn developing games using popular game engines. There were also workshops aimed at elementary school students to learn basics of coding. For me, when the content is complex by its nature and the audience is this broad, it is especially difficult to give a good talk. In that sense, it was an incredible experience! I observed how different presenters interact with the audience to convey their message. As a side benefit, I got to play some cool games that are not published yet!
The events and activities were organized with three main target groups in mind. The first group were kids who were either visiting the museum with their parents or on a class trip. We attended a session where the kids learned about the basic concepts of space and physics in a very clear and engaging way. It was fascinating to see how the kids were excited about what they learned. Happy to learn, in fact. Especially when they see the applications of the concepts with hands-on experiments, they became a lot more engaged.
Aspiring young students who were interested in the industry or people who are in the early stages of their career and interested in learning more constituted the largest group. As previously mentioned, although the wide range of topics was presented all of the talks were successfully tailored to include everyone in the audience. The presenters really did a fantastic job at engaging the whole audience at any given time. Of course, a level of technological details had to be provided. In this case, they explained the concept in a very concise and simple way making sure that everyone is able to follow the rest of the presentation. Presenting difficult information in an accessible way is important, however, it is not the only piece required to communicate the message; the way they present plays a crucial role as well. For me, it was an educational experience to see how effective humor could be in keeping the audience’s attention. Humor sometimes helped them give the audience some time to digest the information they presented.
The last group contained a number of sessions and workshops for students who enjoy playing games and have interest in the industry but have limited knowledge of game development. Some of the sessions were to teach them basics. There were two stages in these sessions: they had to determine the rules and the gameplay in the first step and implement those using different tools depending on their background in the second. It was interesting to see the different difficulty levels available depending on the student’s background. For example, for the students who are in elementary school, most of the functionality was already implemented and available as code blocks. The students had to put them in the right order to obtain the correct execution whereas the students in high school had to implement some functionality on their own to get a gameplay they had designed.
Overall, my secondment at the Yorkshire Games Festival helped gain perspective about all the different communication elements critical in engaging people from diverse backgrounds and ages. Moreover, I figured out these festivals are necessary not only for the audience to learn about new developments but also for the people who are presenting it, especially for the scientist. This is because scientists usually do not have direct access to see people reactions to their work, which I saw can be very motivating. For example, seeing a kid amazed and fascinated after figuring out how sound travels through matter was an incredible experience for me since it also reminded me how I was amazed and still feeling thrilled when I learn more about science. I call this secondment a success.
The 42nd edition of the European Conference on Visual Perception assembled perception and vision-related research conducted in many disciplines (including psychology, neurosciences, biology, computer vision, computer graphics, light and lighting technology and sports and rehabilitation). The conference was held in Leuven, a town with a rich history and architectural heritage. My optical nerves have been fully stimulated with a glance at the night view with the deep blue dusk sky as a backdrop, see the photograph. It shows how the warm ambient light, the highlights from the window reveals, and the sparkles from the vintage light sources blend together in a harmonious way. This is how an ideal vision conference should start.
As a design engineer in the field of light and lighting, I have always believed that applications should start from addressing fundamental questions. My current academic work focuses on the exploration of chromatic light fields effects from physical and perceptual aspects. I had been selected to present my current research outcomes in the form of an oral talk. Although my rehearsals went well behind the stage, the live presentation was somewhat dramatic due to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control. Somebody in the audience fainted in the middle of my talk. Everybody was shocked, but the chairman took immediate action to arrange an ambulance and medical care. Luckily, I have managed to use some time for a re-start after a short pause and continued my presentation. The talk overall went well and the short discussions with other researchers in this field are of great value. My quest to understand more and dive deeper into this topic is only intensified.
The conference organised various platforms to encourage positive scientific engagement, i.e. poster presentations, oral talks, symposia and keynote lectures, as well as many moments to network and meet the other participants (e.g. a conference dinner and an environment that facilitated joint lunches and dinners). The opportunities to connect with other researchers and the academic community in a global context were of great value for getting acquainted with different perspectives within this vision science community, and dialogues to stimulate innovative ideas.
As Perceptual Intelligence Lab we also presented a demo at the Phenomenal Vision Night, namely ‘colour effects in natural light fields’. We showed that cast shadows can be coloured due to lighting from a source with a much lower luminance and more diffuse spatial distribution than the shadow-casting source. This happens for instance on a sunny day with a blue sky, causing shadows to be blueish. We demonstrated this effect both subtly and theatrically. General public as well as scientists were attracted by the strong visual effects in such a simple setup. The theory and effects can also be observed in nature. We demonstrated the effects more dramatically. Hopefully, people who have joined this demo will find it fun to observe and recognise the effects in nature. As the famous football player Johan Cruyff once said “Je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt,” that is, “You will only see it once you understand it”.
As someone who considers himself a scientist first, and an artist second, I came to the Visual Science of Art Conference (VSAC) 2019 with keen interest. The meeting aims to enhance our scientific understanding of how visual artists depict the world, and to further communication between fields that, while traditionally divided within academia, share a passion for seeing. This year we were gathered in Leuven, Belgium, a city that could well have the perfect balance of culture and functionality. And the opening reception was held at the Stadhuis, an absolutely gorgeous example of 15th-century gothic architecture. Our group was welcomed in this grand hall by no less than the mayor of Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani, whose presence signified how this alliance of art and science has strengthened both communities.
The content of the meeting spanned a range of diverse topics, including the visual perception of material properties, empirical aesthetics, and historical studies of rendering techniques. There was also no shortage of visual art—the work of Maaike Schoorel being a notable example. Working from reference photographs of real scenes, she paints a kind of phantasmic representation of the original image, accentuating only the critical lines and shading that suggest the underlying forms. The effect is to break any photographic constraints on interpretation, and to allow each viewer to project their own imagery onto the canvas.
The work I presented at the conference also deals with visual ambiguity, specifically the kind that depends on how we estimate distances in photographs. In everyday circumstances, our ability to identify surface material properties is effortless and automatic, but occasionally this ability can be challenged, especially when the visual pattern impedes a reliable estimation of distance. This can be seen in aerial photographs of planted fields, which can appear strikingly similar to woven fabric or textile. The pattern of light does not specify which interpretation is correct, and so our interpretations reveal what distances we have learned to associate with such images.
In Jan Koenderink’s latest book, The Way of The Eye, he frames visual perception as a process of continually questioning our interpretations of images. Our first impression of what we are looking at is usually quite convincing, but if we relax our focus, other impressions enter into view. Surrealist painters like Dali seem to possess a supernatural talent for imagining multiple interpretations simultaneously, but how to compose photographs with this property strikes me as a slightly different, and perhaps more difficult task. When I asked Dr. Koenderink how one could compose such images, he suggested that it was a matter of attentional training.
To this end, I once spent a sunny afternoon in Giessen wandering around with my camera, hunting for ambiguous scenes. Although my perception of each scene was stable, by meditating on the question, “What else could this be?”, I began to see hints of possibility. By the end of that day I had hundreds of images, but not a clue whether any of them had captured what I had seen, or whether others would agree with my interpretations. One of my basic goals at VSAC was therefore to discuss this way of seeing with visual artists who play with ambiguity.
My line of questioning went something like this: “How does one compose images with multiple interpretations? While creating visual art, are you trying to reduce disparity between a mental image and a perceived image? Does one interpretation serve as the foundation for subsequent layers?” The answers I received to these questions were also rather ambiguous, which could mean that these are not the right questions, or that I am not ready for the answers. Maybe by the time this discussion resumes at next year’s meeting, I will be.
The International Colour Vision Society (ICVS) is an international group of physiologists, psychologists, physicists, geneticists, optometrists, ophthalmologists and visual scientists who have a research interest in the many aspects of colour vision and colour vision deficiencies.
This years meeting was held in Riga, Latvia and I have been fortunate enough to win the runner-up Talk Prize.
I presented my paper on The Temporal Dynamics of Daylight: Speed Limits on Perception. Relatively little is known about human sensitivity to changes in illumination spectra over time. We have been interested in the temporal dynamics and speed limits of illumination change perception, in particular, for daylight changes. People are aware that outdoor illumination varies in chromaticity throughout the day, yet we don’t seem to directly perceive these changes while they occur. Using psychophysical testing with daylight metamers in an immersive illumination setting we found that, for 21 participants, the minimum detectable speed of chromaticity change is on average about 20 times larger than the fastest changes usually occurring in natural daylight. In addition, we found that changes in illumination chromaticity towards a neutral reference are hardest to detect, for non-neutral adaptation lights. This supports the notion that the brain encodes a neutral-daylight illumination prior.