Digital camera software lets humans see like an animal

Camera software takes digital photos and measures “how the scene might look to humans and non-humans alike”

Oliver Cragg
Friday 07 August 2015 12:37
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February 27, 2013: The eye of a sedated lion is seen in a transport cage on a private property in Bucharest. The animal rights foundation "Vier Pfoten" transferred two bears and four lions belonging to an arrested moneylender to a state-owned zoo, Romania
February 27, 2013: The eye of a sedated lion is seen in a transport cage on a private property in Bucharest. The animal rights foundation "Vier Pfoten" transferred two bears and four lions belonging to an arrested moneylender to a state-owned zoo, Romania

Researchers from the University of Exeter have created a free software program that shows users the difference between how humans and animals see images.

Intended for the analysis of animal signalling, camouflage and plant health and identification, the software presents a unique opportunity to view the world through the eyes of different species and compare it to our own vision.

“Viewing the world through the eyes of another animal has now become much easier thanks to our new software,” said the software’s developer Dr Jolyon Troscianko. “Our software allows us to calibrate images and convert them to animal vision, so that we can measure how the scene might look to humans and non-humans alike.”

While the software requires specialist filter equipment to recreate the ability of many animals to see down into the ultraviolet spectrum, it still represents a step forward in understanding how different species interpret images.

Many species see light in different ways to humans, including other mammals that are mostly sensitive to blue and yellow, whereas humans are sensitive to red, blue and green.

Without the aid of technology such as this human vision is restricted to seeing the world in a combination of our three recognised primary colours, however some animals such as birds, reptiles, amphibians and many insects can see the world in four or more colours.

Many can also see into the ultraviolet range of colours, which when filtered over the images of flowers can leave a vibrant display of natural beauty as it reveals hidden UV signals designed to attract bees.

The team behind the software have detailed how it works in a paper written for Methods in Ecology and Evolution, if you have a digital camera converted to full spectrum sensitivity and ultraviolet and visible-pass filters handy you can try the software out for yourself for free.

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