Visual Perception

Seeing seems so easy. It takes us less than half a second to recognize a face, and even if it is a person we’ve never seen before, we can immediately tell from their facial expressions whether they are sad or happy.

In the garden, looking at a tree, we see immediately whether the fruit are ripe to be picked. In the city, we see whether it is safe to cross a road or whether a car is approaching too quickly.

But if we were to try to program a computer to recognize faces or to find a child in the playground while they are running about, we’d realize how complicated and amazing such seemingly simple visual tasks are. To-date not a single computer system is able to reliably and quickly recognize people while they move or talk. To be able to see, we need not just our eyes, but large parts of our brain. Even more, vision does not just end with perceiving and recognizing objects/others, but is at the core of almost any everyday activity we are involved in. It closely interacts with emotions, memory, expectations.

Dr Ute Leonards, PhD
School of Experimental Psychology
University of Bristol

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