From Kybernetik MPI into the wonderous world of motion – a journey…

This presentation describes my scientific and personal journey through a variety of aspects related to motion vision, which started in Tübingen, and was built on the truly amazing opportunities I was lucky to benefit from at the University and at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. It might be ‘a little random’ but reflects the richness, diversity, and intellectual challenges of this field of research.

My appetite was triggered by the ‘Grosspraktikum’ at the University´s Kybernetik department (Dezső Varjú), where members of the MPI trained us in cutting-edge behavioral and electrophysiological methods in flies – leading up to a summer internship at the MPI studying optic flow. In order to broaden my horizon, I went to Sussex University where I studied motion control in ladybirds – giving my insights into alternative ideas about flight control and rather home-made experimental approaches.

From there, I returned to Tübingen – for my PhD at the MPI to investigate the kinematics and aerodynamics of flight control in Drosophila (supervised by Karl Götz). At the same time, I got involved with computational modeling, thinking about the possible limitations of the motion detector that was studied so extensively in Tübingen, leading to a paradoxical motion stimulus – Werner Reichardt offered me an opportunity to stay and explore this in detail.

It was time for me to move on. My interest in learning about human psychophysics led me to Oliver Braddick at UCL London, where I expanded my work on ‘paradoxical’ (now appearing as ‘second-order’) motion, and branching out into a range of motion illusions – always in the context of ‘the’ motion detector model. From London, I was recruited to the Australian National University, with a long history of motion vision, in particular in bees, and a growing interest in automatic flight control in airborne vehicles (before the advent of drones). My attention got distracted, amongst other things, by path-planning in foraging ants, but motion illusions kept at the centre of my work – leading to my first attempt to apply modelling to art, triggered by motion illusions in static patterns of Bridget Riley.

After five years in Australia, we as a family decided to move back to Europe, bringing me to Royal Holloway, where I got involved in my first teaching post, whilst expanding my research in many areas, with a continuing interest in motion illusions, now in humans, animals, and arts. All of this was grown from what started in Tübingen – it is wonderful to see what variety and joyfulness came out of the great time I had with colleagues and friends in my Alma Mater.

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