Tarsier Goggles Delights the Young and Old Alike

DALI project Tarsier Vision Virtual Reality Experience was selected to present and demo at the prestigious anthropological society event of the year, the Leakey Foundation 50th Anniversary Gala on May 3rd. The Leakey Foundation plays a pivotal role in the international study of human origins and evolution. It funds important research projects and leads efforts to engage the public with science through educational outreach and science communication. Ben Cooper '18 (DALI mentor and VR specialist) represented DALI alongside project partner Sam Gochman '18 and his advisor, Professor Nathaniel Dominy. Gala guests were enthusiastic to gaze through the eyes of the Tarsier and reconsider their own human perception. 

“Many of us learn about how evolution has produced adaptations in visual perception, but it is difficult to communicate why that all matters. By bringing our project to the Leakey Foundation, we have the opportunity to show how design and modern technology can be bridged to science education and how science can be brought to a personal level of understanding and relevance.” – Sam Gochman

Sharing the Tarsier project with the Leakey community extended the reach of the important bridge between science education, design, and technology. It was also a unique opportunity for the DALI team to interact directly with leading anthropologists, entrepreneurs and industry leaders from Silicon Valley. The trip was supported by the Dartmouth Anthropology Department and the Nuekom Institute. 

Gochman started working with DALI in January 2018, tested the VR experience at DALI’s Technigala in March, and brought the project to The Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) in mid-May. VINS hosted the project for an afternoon to share with a group of visiting middle schoolers. The kid's reaction to the virtual reality environment was visceral! They jumped when the tarsier jumped and were quick to point out the unexpected differences in vision. The DALI team added an owl component to the experience to bridge the human-tarsier experience with a more familiar animal. It also provides an excellent opportunity to learn about convergent evolution, as well as optics.