& Active Exploration
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How can humans make judgements about material properties of objects - just by looking at them? How do we visually determine whether something is crumbly or firm, glossy or dull, sticky or slick? ---
In the Perception & Active Exploration Group we investigate the computational and neural mechanisms that enable humans to perceive intrinsic object qualities like softness, stickiness or roughness. We want to understand what visual information plays a role in this perceptual process and how associations between informative features form within and across modalities as a result of explorative behavior. To do this we combine psychophysics with tracking methods, computational approaches, virtual reality, and fMRI. ---
Explorative movements yield different types of information about material properties: rotating a glazed cup yields highlight motion (left) which tells us something about the glossiness of a surface. Applying pressure can lead to characteristic deformations in shape (right) which can visually convey something about the softness of a material.
Why material perception? Material qualities play a role in many of our everyday practical, aesthetic and even culinary choices, because they determine an objects' potential use, affordance or value - sometimes more so than its shape (e.g. would you use a glass hammer to pound in a nail?). Basic research on material perception not only gets us one step closer towards understanding how our minds work, but may also be of practical relevance e.g. in product design, computer graphics, art, advertisement or robotics. ---
You can find an overview of our work organized by topic here.
Funding for research provided by: