Seeing The World Through The Eyes Of A Tarsier

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Seeing The World Through The Eyes Of A Tarsier
March 26, 2019
A nocturnal, pint-sized primate, the tarsier, is known for its giant eyes that give it a predatory advantage. (Photo Credit: Mint Images/Getty Images)

 

Tarsiers, tiny nocturnal animals with giant eyes, have an interesting way of seeing the world. Now, thanks to a new virtual reality software dubbed Tarsier Goggles, you can witness the pint-sized primate’s vision and how it serves as a predatory advantage.

 

The Tarsier Goggles, which were developed by Samuel Gochman while he was a student at Dartmouth and Nathaniel J. Dominy, the Charles Hansen Professor of Anthropology at Dartmouth, in collaboration with Dartmouth’s Applied Learning and Innovation (DALI) Lab, said a Dartmouth College press release.

A student tests the Tarsier Goggles during a formal assessment. (Photo Credit: Dustin Meltzer/Kimball Union Academy)

 

The team, which recently published their building process and findings in Evolution: Education and Outreach, noted how the Tarsier Goggles simulate the tiny primate’s vision and demonstrate how its oversized eyes give it a predatory advantage in rainforest environments.

A Philippine tarsier. (Photo Credit: David Haring)

 

First, Gochman presented a challenge to the DALI Lab: How could he change humans’ perceptions of our world with the tarsier’s offbeat ocular adaptations. Then, the DALI team explored various design solutions, and Gochman and the team decided that a VR experience would work the best, since it would be immersive and can be used as a teaching tool for students.

 

The Tarsier Goggles feature three VR learning environments: The “Matrix,” the Labyrinth,” and “Bornean Rainforest,” which mimic how a tarsier’s vision is different from a human’s when it comes to acuity, brightness, and color vision. In the VR Bornean Rainforest, users can “leap” and “cling” to trees in a, “dark, maze-like space that is practically opaque under human visual conditions but navigable as a tarsier, demonstrating the advantages of tarsier visual sensitivity,” describe the study’s authors.

A tiny tarsier in a tree. (Photo Credit: SoleneC1/Pixabay)

 

Gochman demonstrated the Tarsier Goggles at two on-campus events at Dartmouth: an anthropological society meeting and a sixth grade class visiting the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, Vermont.

 

He also demonstrated the technology to a group of high school students at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, where students watched a short video on tarsiers’ foraging behavior and had the opportunity to test the VR technology for five minutes each. Following this, the students completed a brief post-survey, which was part of Gochman’s formal assessment of the Tarsier Goggles.

 

With Tarsier Goggles, students can have a cool VR experience and understand how the tarsier’s quirky vision abilities help it survive in tough rainforest environments. “Virtual reality offers an immersive experience for understanding some of the properties of the tarsier’s vision, as a result of its adaptations,” Gochman said in the press release. “Tarsier Goggles is a science education tool that engages students in hands-on scientific concepts in physics, perceptual science, and biology.”

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