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Inverting Goggles Experiment

Follow us on our experiences for 10 days!

Goggles Off!
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I ran MW through a final set of (goggles-on) lab tests early this morning.  After a little more of the bicycling activity (since she left us in such awe yesterday), MW's goggles came off around 5:30 pm today.  We will run the final post-tests tomorrow.
It has been an exciting journey.  MW could not have been a more enthusiastic participant.  We will have many stories to share.

Thank you to Hochelega Inn, ExpertTees, the Boiler Room, CloverLeaf Lanes, Ahoy Rentals, and the folks in the Kingston community who we have had the pleasure of meeting.


For the first time MW is typing her thoughts herself!
(Lab tests) Lab tests certainly felt different this time around, although it seems like I am still much more comfortable with faces that are upright for me.
(Bicycling 2) Once again I was able to ride the bike without falling over. It didn't feel too different from yesterday's experience, but I did feel more confident this time knowing that I am indeed capable of riding a bike while wearing the goggles.
(Taking off the goggles) The first moment after the goggles came off felt very weird. The world felt much larger after I got my peripheral vision back. The first minutes when I moved my head around (especially when moving it up and down) made my visions kind of blurry. It was almost the same feeling I got when I first started wearing the goggles (but of course not as nearly as severe). However it took almost no time for me to readjust my hand-eye co-ordination except when it came to controlling the cursor with a mouse. Now (about 6 hours later), my visions are still slightly blurry when I move my head up and down quickly, but other than that I am completely back to normal.

This has been one of the most adventurous/fun experiences of my life. I got to do and learn so many things within these 10 days. There were some stressful moments (like the first few meals), but that's nothing compared to the great times I've had. I'd like to thank Dr. Troje for inviting me to participate as the subject for this wonderful experiment. I am very grateful. I'd also really like to thank Dorita for being such a wonderful experimenter, keeping me safe and happy and putting up with my clumsiness for 10 days. She has been amazing. I know for sure that I'll be telling people about this experience in years and years to come.

A note about the project
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As we are getting increasing attention from the media and the general public, I feel I have to clarify a few things about this project.

We are using here a paradigm which was first introduced by G. M. Stratton more than a hundred years ago, then made famous by T. Erismann and I. Kohler in Austria in the first half of the 20th century (LINK HERE) and later used by a few other groups, mainly in Japan.

In these kind of experiments, a person wears prism goggles which mirror reverse the visual input to the eyes about a horizontal axis, therefore turning the image of the word upside down as compared to normal vision. Initially, this provides a very disturbing situation for the person wearing the goggles. The main phenomenon on which the experiments are based is the fact that after a few days, the experimental subject learns to cope with the new situation. At some point, the world seems to be right side up again. We have to assume that at this point, a new mapping between visual maps in the brain, and the areas of the brain which control motor behaviour in space is established.

My lab is interested in a number of different so-called ”visual inversion effects”. Some objects, and particularly human faces can be recognised much better if shown right-side up as compared to upside-down. The question which motivates our experiments is: Once the observer has adapted to a world which has the “wrong” orientation on the her retina, what happens to these inversion effects. Which face is being recognised better? The one that is oriented the same way as faces always were oriented on the retina until the goggles were put on? While still in the “correct” orientation on the retina, they are upside down in the visual world to which the observer has adapted. Or does she process better a face which appears right side up in her new world – but of course is inverted compared to how faces were oriented before?

Even though a number of experiments with inversion goggles have been run over the last 100 years, this question has never been asked, let alone answered.

Therefore, in addition to providing MW with plenty of distraction and challenges to give her plenty of input required to re-map visual and motor maps, we run her on a number of formal tests designed to study the development of her adaptation and her responses to visual inversion effects. These tests are not subject of this blog! Eventually, after careful evaluation of our data, we will publish their results in peer reviewed scientific journals.

Visit the website of my lab for more information on our work at www.biomotionlab.ca.

Niko Troje

Day 8 Goggle Wearing
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This morning, we headed down to the Ontario St. area for some canoeing!  MW could spot and recognize ducks in the vicinity.
Here's MW below.  And, if the second photo looks upside-down to you -- well, MW took that one herself...


After lunch, we headed out for some bicycling.  Bicycling is activity that cannot be done by relying solely on motor memory.  To navigate around obstacles, MW must surely rely on her visual cues.  See below.  MW cycled around impressively (no training wheels, and no accidents!).  If we consider that MW could not even walk on her own on Day 1, this is a particularly amazing feat.

Lastly, we headed over for a soccer game with the lab back on campus.  It is evident that MW has improved in terms of her ability to track a moving ball.  MW, although sometimes missing the ball with her kick, was well able to aim for the direction of the net.

Tomorrow's her last day.  I will miss her antics!

MW's Day 8 Jenga count: 28 stories


(canoeing) Canoeing was very refreshing.  It was very interesting seeing the waves upside-down, and looking at the paddle as I am canoeing.  I am glad we didn't tip over!
(bicycling) I'm surprised that I could bike without falling today!  It was strange that I could keep my balance even though I couldn't see much of my body or the bike itself.
(soccer) Soccer was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be since I could not see the ball when it was close to my foot.  But still, I managed to kick a few balls!  It was a lot of fun!

Day 7 Goggle Wearing
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This morning, we went sailing with the Wares!  Given MW's problem with sitting in cars for travel (note that she still has a slight problem with position constancy), I didn't know what to expect.  Yet, she surprises me again.  In the end, MW enjoyed the activity much more than I (see below).  She even had a chance to steer the boat herself!  I would report on this more....but I was busy the entire time turning all different colours and ....throwing up my breakfast....(the things we do for science...)


We then had a nice lunch at the Troje's house.  Check out MW playing the piano and accordian below!  As MW was reading music on the piano, I realized that the notes, appearing inverted to her, of course read all the wrong way!  For example, an F on the bass clef below the staff, mirror flipped ends up above the staff and reads a B.  Cute...and....interesting music results...


Later in the evening, we headed over to the lab for video game and pizza night.  Bowling, through the Wii, was evidently easier.


MW's Day 7 Jenga count: 30 stories + 2 blocks

MW's thoughts to follow later in the night.  She is currently playing ...super smash...brothers?....
(sailing) Sailing was very fun for me.  I enjoyed the rocky motion of the waves.  Being on the sailboat was still very disorienting though, especially having to look up at the sails.
(music at lunch)  The short music activity was a lot of fun. Reading sheet music wasn't actually as hard as I thought.
(video games) I was a lot worse at video games than I usually am.  The controls are somewhat backwards...
I can't see how much more I can adapt in the next two (last) days!

Day 6 Goggle Wearing
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MW completed another round of visuo-motor sports today.  In the morning, we headed over to the Boiler Room for some rock-climbing -- an activity with a strong vertical component.  MW made it up the wall very quickly.  As she was lowered down, she reported that the experience was very 'strange', as if she was 'going upwards'.  Consider of course, that as she is being lowered down from the climb, her visual cues (which may be indicating upwards self-motion to her) do not match her vestibular cues (which are indicating movement of her body downwards).  I now have this sudden urge to take her on some rollercoasters in order to better retune this discrepancy.

In the afternoon, we headed back to ExpertTees for another round of mini-golf.  Recall on Day 2 that she had tremendous difficulty orienting herself with respect to the ball and the course.  Today's performance was much MUCH improved.  She put the ball in the hole after just a few strokes.  There was no apparent confusion as to her position with respect to the ball and the direction of the hole.

Roller-blading was last on the day.  Recall that MW was already quite secure roller-blading on Day 3.  Today, she navigated around the same obstacle course as she did on Day 3, recording quicker times. 

MW's Day 6 Jenga count: 29 stories + 2 blocks


(rock-climbing) Rock-climbing was a lot of fun.  I didn't expect that I would be able to make it to the top twice.  Coming down was strange because the wall makes it look like I'm going up.
(mini-golf)  I'm surprised by how fast I was able to get the ball into the hole.  I guess subconsciously, I've somehow managed to improve my understanding of the tilted world.
(roller-blading) I felt a little more confident on the wheels today.  I was able to navigate around the pilons without too many problems.

Day 5 Goggle Wearing
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Where to begin.  MW put her special experiment t-shirt on inside out this morning.  I haven't yet figured out the science behind that phenomenon...

I should mark today as the first day MW travelled around WITHOUT the assistance of a walking stick.  Walking up/down stairs requires reassurance with rails.  But otherwise, locomotive activities appear normal.

This morning, we had some time to spare so MW was able to practice some more hand-eye fine motor skills with some arts and crafts.  Specifically, her task was to fit pre-cut wood pieces together to form a teddy bear.  I then asked her to specify facial features of the bear and to paint its body.   See her final creation below.  She creates a veridical upright bear, and the positions and orientations of the eyes and mouth are veridical.  I ask her whether the Teddy is happy or sad (this last question because of the DQ commercial we saw on Day 1 when she reported that the happy mouth shown on the screen appeared sad to her).  She reports that she has made a happy bear.

In the afternoon, we headed over to the Sheep Dog Trials at Grass Creek Park.  Lots of dogs, lots of sheep, and lots of fun.

Today, we also made our first visit to the Emergency Clinic at the hospital.  But, you guessed wrongly.  The reason we were there was me, and not MW!  My hand had swollen up quite badly by late afternoon (see yesterday's post on hiking), so we made a pit stop to get it checked out.  See a very sad experimenter below -- photo taken by MW!

Moving on.  Our last stop today was dancing class!  MW showed us her moves.  I moved MW away from the mirror where she could not see the orientation of her own body with respect to the rest of the class, and she was still well able to execute the movements.  The only interesting observation here was that she seemed to have trouble turning the correct direction.  Check it out below.

MW's Day 5 Jenga count: 28 + 2 blocks


(bear)The bear creation activity was slightly more challenging than I thought it would be.  My main problem was tilting the pieces and putting them together.  I am pretty happy the result though, as the bear looked like a bear in the end!
(sheep dogs) The sheep dog trials were fun to watch!  I feel like I've adapted enough to understand what was going on.
(dancing) Dancing was actually less disorienting than I feared, although a lot of the turning moves, especially those involving head tiles were really confusing.

Day 4 Goggle Wearing
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Our day started with some ball and racquet exercises in the university's squash court.  MW could hit the ball (tennis ball, but not squash ball) correctly in between two lines, and found that pointing to the target, prior to hitting the ball, helps.

We took a hiking trip at Little Cat Creek in the afternoon.  Aside from being eaten alive by the little ...flying...friends, we learned that MW still has trouble with distance estimations.  See below for example, of MW trying to reach for a leaf that is evidently beyond her grasp.

The last major activity of the day was Pottery class.  It quickly became clear that this activity would not have worked on Day 1 as it requires significant hand-eye ability and the use of tools.  I guess all that practice with the cutlery during breakfast helped.  After a quick lesson, MW, armed with a bottle and some clay, created her own mug.  The interesting question of course, is the orientation of her creation.  See below.  She creates a mug that is veridical upright.  Still, MW has trouble when it comes to written letters.  When asked to put her initials at the bottom of the mug (so we can retrieve it later on), she writes 'W W'.  The creation and positioning of the letters 'B M L' (for BioMotionLab), also took significant thought and trial and error.


MW's Day 4 Jenga Count: 26 stories + 2 blocks

(squash) I'm surprised that I cannot hit the squash ball.  I guess catching socks wasn't much help!
(hiking) Hiking was a lot of fun.  I'm glad that I've adapted enough to be able to appreciate the beauty of the place.  Throwing a stick (fetch with dog) was interesting.  I am able to throw straight now.
(pottery) Pottery was really interesting but really hard because it required a lot of fine motor movements.  I can't believe I wrote 'WW' instead of my intended 'MW'.  But, overall, I feel very accomplished to be able to complete a mug.  I look forward to seeing the finished product.

Day 3 Goggle Wearing
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MW has had the goggles on for about 48 hours now (blindfolds while sleeping)....and is currently practicing catch with....her socks...

This morning, as we walked towards the lab/campus, it became apparent that MW's walking returned to a  pre-goggle pace.  She is now able to walk on the flat ground without assistance (without the walking stick), and can mostly walk up and down stairs on her own with the aid of the rail.  The morning's activities included some ball/catch exercises --

(As I am writing this paragraph...MW has now lost her socks....her bad peripheral vision I guess!)
...MW's motor output appears to be quite normal.  She throws well towards the intended target.  She has difficulty catching, which seems to be a result of both her reduced FOV and the new manner in which the ball appears to approach her.  For example, yesterday, she was orienting her hands to catch the ball as if the ball was coming from the bottom.  Today, she appears to orient her hands correctly however.
In the afternoon, MW had her first chance to try rollerblading.  Surprisingly, she showed no trouble at all navigating around pilons comfortably and quickly.

Earlier in the afternoon, we showed MW some visual illusions/orientation effects and she reported some very interesting observations (she below)... It seems we are well on our way adaptation.

MW's Day 3 Jenga count: 24 stories + 1 block

MW roller-blading:

MW, when shown this image, reports that she sees both the King and Queen, and that both "feel" equally upright


I felt accomplished today that I was able to roller-blade.  I am disappointed that I am still unable to catch.  I'm surprised at how difficult it is to catch.  I"m guessing it's more of a field of view problem than an inversion problem.  I am working on it!
When I was shown images of faces today, I'm surprised that the inverted face and the upright face both feel upright to me.   I did not expect that effect because when I look into the horizon it is still very clear to me that it is upside down.  But looking at faces specifically, it is confusing to me to figure out whether they are upright or inverted.

Oh,...and dinner was good tonight.  I am sad that I did not get enough hot and sour soup!

Day 2 Goggle Wearing
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We were up before sunrise this morning doing some...pointing....ask a certain Mr. TL ;-)
We then travelled back to the inn for a breakfast filming with Discovery.  MW's eating skills are improving.  She is no longer missing her mouth as she eats with her hands.  The use of cutlery is still awkward, however.  In contrast from the previous night, she now orients her hands properly when grasping for a cup/glass.

After breakfast, we headed over to ExpertTees for some mini-golf.  MW seems well able to hit the ball with her golf club.  However, she has tremendous difficulty figuring out how to orient her body so as to hit the ball from the side she wants.  In addition, she has trouble figuring out the direction she should be aiming.

Volleyball was next.  Her motor skills are quite good as she is able to serve the ball over the net.  On the receiving end however, she has difficulty estimating the ball's arrival and returning serve.  To her, she says, the ball is coming from the bottom.

Lastly, we headed to bowling (sans camera crew).  A few gutters, but wow, she managed to get a strike!  I wonder how much we're really testing her in this task however.  She pointed out something I didn't consider.  While the physical pins look inverted to her, there is a reflection of the pins on the lane, that of course, look upright to her!  Hmmm..

MW's Day 2 Jenga count: 24 stories

MW mini-golfing:

Walking around downtown and waiting for food at Chez Piggy


(mini-golf) I didn't realize that not only do I have get used to the upside-down orientation when looking forward, but I also have to take into consideration the sideways tilted orientation of looking to the right or the left.
(volley-ball) I realize my reflexes still tell me what to do -- based upon my current vision.  If I had time to time think about, I could probably take the inversion to account and correct myself.
(bowling) Bowling was extremely scary because I couldn't see my hand until the very moment I released the ball.  Tracking the ball down the lane was another big task.  When I move my focus from the ground to the lane when I release the ball, it is really disorienting.  I got lucky with that strike though!

Day 1 Goggle Wearing
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We finally managed to get the goggles on MW at about 4 pm after a busy morning/afternoon of filming.  We kicked everyone out and immediately tested her on the set of tasks.  Her ability to read veridical text, and mirror-inverted text that has been rotated, surprised me.

Our first attempt to go down stairs was difficult.  MW required a lot of assistance, and I instruct her to use the walking stick to feel far out the environment in front of her.  Her walking is not steady.  We checked into the Inn around 7 pm -- our home for the next 8 nights.

MW's first meal after goggle wearing was also difficult.  She has trouble using cutlery to pick up food.  When presented with a glass, she orients her hands incorrectly.

MW's Day 1 Jenga count: 21 stories + 1 block

See MW reading below:


I am surprised by how disoriented the goggles have made me.  When I'm walking, I don't even know which way is forward.  I can't imagine adapting to this.  Right now, I can't even walk by myself.

Eating was a lot more challenging than I thought.  Using the cutlery was very confusing.  I don't know how to orient the forks and knives.

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