Vision literally shapes the way we see the world. Beyond understanding the eye itself, vision research delves into areas like perception, disease and brain injury, machine learning, entertainment, and design. And it takes broad expertise to come up with bold ideas.
Formed to tackle complex topics like these, Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) is an interdisciplinary program at York University that focuses on understanding vision from many perspectives.
“We’re looking at vision from all sorts of different points of view,” says neuroscientist Laurence Harris. “From the neurophysiological point of view, from normal vision and perceptual point of view, the computer point of view, and from robotics, also. So there’s many different applications, and many different ways of thinking about what vision is.”
VISTA casts a wide net, spanning everything from biological to computer vision, and also spanning from pure basic science to real-world applications.
“I like to think of it as a two-dimensional space, the one that we’re trying to span from biological to computational vision, and on the other hand we’re trying to span from pure science of vision to the applications of vision,” says computational vision scientist Richard Wildes.
To help get their technology to the market, VISTA has extensive collaborations with industry, including companies like Adobe, Google, and Qualcomm. From healthcare to virtual reality and entertainment, industry collaborators include experts in hospitals, filmmaking, and display manufacturing.
“These industry partners are the ones who are able to push out this technology,” says computer scientist Michael Brown. “So if you can develop something in the lab, you have connections to partners who can actually realize these things in products that consumers will use.”
“In our work in entertainment, for instance, we need to work with filmmakers, we need to work with post-production people, and so on, right down to the display manufacturers who put the pixels in front of us in the movie theatre and in our homes,” adds virtual reality scientist Robert Allison.
York University is an ideal home for a program like VISTA, mainly because it formalized research relationships that were already thriving, making it even easier to collaborate.
“Now it’s been formalized so that it’s so much easier to enable this sort of cross-disciplinary research that we really need,” says health scientist Lauren Sergio.
“If you really want to get at problems that go from, how does the brain work, to how do I get my grandmother to not fall in the early stages of dementia, it’s really complicated. So you actually need a lot of help. So it’s great we have an environment here that we can do that.”
And with a team working on projects that reach into so many areas, the technology developed at VISTA is poised to make a big impact on the everyday lives of people around the world.