Camouflage Challenge

gecko

Camouflage refers to a phenomenon in which an object is hard to tell apart from its surroundings, even when it is in plain sight, as in the picture above (photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). For instance, can you see the gecko in the above picture? For additional pictures of, and explanation about, camouflage, please see the Wikipedia page on camouflage.

We are keenly interested in understanding how the visual system breaks camouflage, i.e., recognizes camouflaged objects).  Obviously, camouflage-breaking can be a matter of life and death in nature, in the battlefield, and in hunting.  Recognition of camouflaged objects is also of great conceptual significance in visual science, because camouflaged visual scenes represent an extreme case of visual ambiguity.  As noted on our home page, visual disambiguation is critical for visual perception under natural visual conditions.  Thus, camouflage-breaking provides an extremely useful tool for understanding how the visual system disambiguates visual information.By the same token, it also provides a useful way of illustrating some of the key principles of visual disambiguation in particular, and visual perception at large.  We intend to use web-based tools to illustrate these principles.  In a larger sense, we plan to use the web as an educational tool to help illustrate not on scientific facts and principles, but also the scientific method.

This web page, which is currently under development, represents an initial step in this overall direction.  Eventually, this web page will feature many fun and instructive activities involving not just camouflage, but about how we see and how the brain works.  These activities will include many online or downloadable video games, challenges, contests etc.  You will also be able to “play scientist”, whereby you can design and run, using this website, behavioral experiments (mostly about how we see, since vision experiments are easier to implement on the web than experiments involving other senses, such as touch or smell, for instance).  You will be able to collect data (that is, make various behavioral measurements) about how we see, analyze these data using the online data analysis tools and draw your own conclusions.  The overall goal of these web-based ‘experiments’ will be to illustrate not only the various principles of visual perception, but also to illustrate the scientific methodology.

At this time, though, what this web page can do is rather modest.  It features two demos about camouflage, the purpose of which is to illustrate how interesting, educational and exciting camouflage can be.  These demos should also give you some sense of what the aforementioned web-based experiments will eventually look like.

To run these demos, you will need to install a Flash player. If your computer does not have a flash player installed on it already, your browser may ask you install it when you click on either link.

Demo 1: Can you find the camouflaged object? (Click to run the demo)

Demo 2: Trace the outline of the camouflaged object. (Click to run the demo)

We emphasize that no information of any kind will be collected at this time, pending the formal institutional approval of the relevant data collection protocols.  (For the same reason, the online data analysis capabilities of this website are inactivated for now.)  Thus, the current capabilities of this website are intended only as initial ‘proofs of principle’ of our planned web-based activities and experiments.

We realize that this website is still quite drab and boring, but be assured that the finished version will be a whole lot more fun and exciting!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for improvement, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We would love to hear from you!

This website is maintained by Karin Hauffen, a Research Apprentice in the Hegdé lab.  The demos were programmed by Xun Shi (a collaborator of ours at York University in Toronto, Canada), Xin Chen (a Post-doctoral Associate in the Hegdé lab), and Jay Hegdé.