The world of augmented reality is ever-changing, but electric fish are assisting with its development. The same fish reveal how animals actively sense the world around them, helping researchers figure out the mysteries which exist within active sensing and sensory feedback.
The Animal World Sense
Dolphins and bats utilize sound waves to detect their surroundings. Much like a battery, electric fish generate electricity which helps them detect motion in the world around them. Humans, meanwhile, use tiny eye movements to perceive objects within their field of vision.
Both of these things are examples of “active sensing,” which is a process that exists across the entire animal kingdom. The process involves motion production, sounds and signals which gather sensory feedback about our external environment. Until now, many researchers have struggled with figuring out how the brain controls such active sensing habits, mostly because active sensing is tightly connected with sensory feedback.
The Augmented Reality Link
A new NJIT study, in tandem with Johns Hopkins research, has used augmented reality technology to change this link, unraveling a wonderful dynamic which exists between sensory feedback and preemptive active sensing. The study’s results report that the active sensing movements of a weakly electric fish are under sensory feedback control, serving to enhance the perceptive information they receive.
The same study suggests that the fish should use a dual-control system for understanding feedback which is garnered from active sensing movements, a feature that might be ubiquitous across many animals. The findings, published within Current Biology, could have a number of implications in the neuroscience field, as well as the engineering of additional artificial systems; including self-driving cars and cooperative robotics.
The World Around Us
Such studies let us explore feedback in ways we’ve only dreamed of in the past 10 years. In fact, it’s the first study in which augmented reality has been utilized to study the world around us in real-time. The fundamental processes of movement-based active sensing, which nearly all animals use, is derived from the above-mentioned fish, the eigenmannia virescens, which has been known to hide in refuges to avoid threats from environmental predators.
The species, and its relatives, displays a magnet-like ability to stay in a fixed position within its refuge: a process known as station-keeping. As such, the research team attempted to learn how the fish controlled such a sensing behavior by altering the way such a fish perceives its movement in relation to its refuge.
The same movement these fish display is matched by those of human eyes. This realization allowed researchers to devise augmented reality systems which perturbed the relationship between motor and sensory systems without unlinking them fully. Where the future is considered, it’s possible that such published data could result in engineers translating the data into better feedback control systems, although the consideration of progressive technology, ethical installations and utility should remain on the table.