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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine

hybridvigor.net: AS IF YOU WERE THERE:

Richard Jay Solomon
April 2002

A large variety of advanced electronic imaging equipment is available for collecting and disseminating visual information. However, despite the ever-expanding capabilities of new devices, the limiting factor for understanding and reacting to information displayed and collected is the human perceptual system.

Where science has had any discernable input (other than guesswork and trial-and-error) in the design of photographic and television systems, parameters for imaging systems have been set primarily via psychophysical measurements. Psychophysics, the study of human reactions to physical stimuli or input, is limited to determining reactions from external stimuli; it does not study how the brain works. It is difficult to explain just how the human perceptual system reacts to these stimuli. What has emerged as a key design problem for a system that more accurately replicates “presence” is that much of the psychophysical data used in the past to engineer highperformance networked imaging systems-i.e., simple reactions to stimuli-is not consistent with the known workings of the human neurological system, which tries to explain how or why we react.

The latest neurological data, using direct brain scanning devices such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomograpy (PET) scans, indicate that the human sensory system is much more sensitive, yet at the same time is much more selective to information stimuli from visual displays and auditory sources, than had been previously understood by engineering designers. Seemingly contradictory, these dual insights imply that the designs of information transmitting, storage and processing devices have to be more closely coupled to the human perceptual system in order to gain a better “impedance” match between opto-electronics and our neurons.

Compared to older theories based on psychophysical measurements, many of the results recently published in the neurological literature about how the human vision system works are surprising and counter-intuitive. This new research forces us to question long-held assumptions about how electronic transmission components, cameras, displays, processors, and even audio speakers should work. We can use this new information to design much more accurate and believable electronic systems that would replicate a scene as if the observer were present.

That is to say, for critical scientific, medical, archival and engineering objectives-contrary to the design of consumer entertainment appliances-it is simply not acceptable to discard potential perceptual inputs to the human neurological system based on erroneous ideas of what we can perceive and not perceive, even if the picture looks “pretty good” to the untrained observer, or at least good enough based on what we’ve become accustomed to,. The human vision system is much too complicated and capable for us to settle for simplistic design objectives such as those found in most off-the-shelf compression, transmission and display systems. Making pretty pictures for television and movies is easy compared to providing critical information for technical analysis and archival storage.