Bill Warren takes an ecological approach to problems of perception and action, which aims to see how much of the organization in behavior can be explained "for free" on the basis of informational and physical constraints in natural environments. His current research focuses on the visual content of locomotion.
My research focuses on the visual control of action - in particular, human locomotion and navigation. On the one hand, I want to understand how motor behavior such as posture and gait become stably organized. On the other, I seek to explain how this behavior is adaptively regulated by visual information in complex environments. Using virtual reality techniques, my research team investigates problems such as the visual control of balance, steering, and obstacle avoidance during walking. This technology allows us to manipulate what human subjects see while walking through the virtual landscape, and to measure how they respond to this information. By using computer graphics, we test how the visual system determines one's future path of self-motion from information such as optic flow, in order to characterize the functions that the brain must perform. The ultimate aim of this research is to understand how adaptive behavior emerges from the dynamic interaction of an organism and its environment. I think the answers will not be found solely in the brain, but will also depend on the physical and informational regularities that the brain comes to exploit. This research contributes to a foundation of basic knowledge that is needed to understand visual-motor disorders and mobility problems in humans, and to develop mobile robots that can operate in novel environments such as the surface of Mars.
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Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences: William Warren
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