Self-isolation tips

From Ellen De Korte

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.

Ellen De Korte home office set-up

Yorkshire Games Festival

Yorkshire Games Festival

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!

Yorkshire Games Festival 2020 coding workshop for students

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.

Baran Usta playing computer games during Yorkshire Games Festival 2020

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.

Talk “Welcome To Exploring Space” during the Yorkshire Games Festival 2020

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.

Students on a class trip during a workshop at the Yorkshire Games Festival 2020

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.  

Visual Science of Art Conference 2019

Written by Jacob Cheeseman

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.

Stadhuis van Leuven

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.

Maaike Schoorel, Oranje Boterbloemen (Orange Buttercups), oil on canvas, 2011

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.

Jacob R. Cheeseman, Hunting for Ambiguity, photograph, 2018

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.

International Colour Vision Society Meeting 2019

Written by Ruben Pastilha

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.

Ruben Pastilha presenting his paper at the ICVS 2019

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.

Ruben presenting at ICVS 2019

World Haptics Conference 2019

Written by Muge Cavdan

World Haptics Conference 2019 (WHC) was the first major conference that I attend to in haptics. I was super excited to see all other works in my field. Since it is not only research but also applied field-oriented conference, I saw a lot of applications of the pure research.

First day of WHC 2019’s schedule is only included workshops. A total of 5 workshops held on current topics in haptics. I had a chance to attend “Softness Perception” which is directly related to my work. My supervisor Prof. Dr. Knut Drewing also had a talk entitled “Different Dimensions of Softness and Their Associated Exploratory Procedures” in this session.

Prof. Knut Drewing giving his talk about Different Dimensions of Softness and Their Associated Exploratory Procedures.

On the other days, talks, demonstrations, posters, & discussion sessions took place. There was a great environment in which you could have the opportunity to get involve in demonstrations and talk to people from different companies and universities during breaks or discussion sessions.

Demonstration session from 3rd day

All in all, throughout my Tokyo visit I got involved in a very different culture, met a lot of people from both industry and research, and most importantly learned how limitless what I can do in research. I would like to thank my supervisors Prof. Dr. Knut Drewing & Dr. Katja Doerschner for their support during my WHC 2019 paper submission and talk preparation.