Keynotes

ECVP 2008 hosted two keynote lectures. The Perception Lecture was given by professor Ian Howard, the Rank Prize Lecture by professor Jan Koenderink. Both lectures took take place in Utrecht's famous 'Dom' church.

Perception Lecture 2008: Professor Ian P. Howard

IHProf. Dr. Ian P. Howard
Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology and Biology
Founder of the Centre for Vision Research
York University
Canada

Biography (by Prof. Dr. Wim van de Grind)

Ian Howard's first publication appeared in 1953, one year after he obtained a BSc degree from the university of Manchester UK. Fourteen publications and a book later he obtained his PhD in experimental psychology from Durham University. These early publications range from an electromechanical maze runner, through colour vision to interocular transfer (in Nature). Ian Howard has been and is a towering figure in the field of human spatial orientation (the title of his first book in 1966, with W.B. Templeton), human visual orientation (his second book in 1982), binocular vision and stereopsis (third book in 1995 and 2002, with B.J.Rogers) and seeing in depth (fourth book in 2002). His innovative research has been widely cited and he has been an invited and highly inspiring speaker at innumerable conferences. His books have become standard works in their fields. One reason is their encyclopedic character, another is the order they have created in large parts of perception research. Ian Howard is also famous for his amazingly innovative experimental contrivances and set-ups, that have attracted scientists from all over the world to his lab.  If you want to hang upside down in a tilted room or tickle your acelleration sensors, visit Ian. These wonderful devices have (a.o.) enabled the precise study of conflicts between the vestibular and visual system and made it possible to study and explain several disorientation syndromes and illusions experienced by pilots and astronauts in their demanding working environments. He also designed experiments for the Space lab aboard the Space shuttle, and wrote recommendations to improve spatial orentation during space flights. Ian Howard is a highly original scientist, who found several new and fruitful ways to unravel the interplay between the partly independent control systems of our spatial orientation and navigation. In one approach he showed that optokinetic eye-movements (OKN) induced by illusory self-motion (vection), have separable head-centric, world-centric and oculocentric components. He also reported that OKN is only evoked by stimuli moving in the plane of binocular convergence, which means that the (cortical) stereoscopic system also influences the (subcortical) OKN centres. These insights made OKN pivotal in studies of multisensory spatial orientation. It is only one example of original work by Ian Howard and coworkers, illustrating very nicely how it is possible in studies at the behavioural level to gain deep insights in the inner workings of the brain. Interestingly, Ian produced more scientific publications after his retirement (1993) than before that time, even though he has always been the highly productive scientist with wide-ranging interests and capabilities that he is today.

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Rank Prize Lecture 2008: Professor Jan J. Koenderink

Jan Koenderink

Prof. Dr. Jan J. Koenderink
Professor of Physics of Man
Co-Founder of the Helmholtz Institute
Fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Biography (by Prof. Dr. Wim van de Grind).

Jan Koenderink (1943) studied physics, mathematics and astronomy at Utrecht University, where he obtained his PhD (summa cum laude) in 1971. His supervisor was Maarten Bouman, one of the founders of the ECVP. The next few years Jan worked at Groningen University (Psychology Department) on the theory of optical flow and shape from shading. In the late 1970's he returned to Utrecht University, where he held the chair "Physics of Man" until his retirement in February 2008. Like so many of his European collegues he is very much against this forced retirement at 65 years of age. In a presentation on Nobel laureate Wilhelm Ostwald (1843-1932) Jan stated "The more my own age progresses, the more I cherish examples such as Wilhelm Ostwald, who after his retirement entered a new field, developed it on his own steam, and published more on it than many scientists will ever manage in their chosen field in a lifetime." Jan Koenderink received an honorary doctorate from Leuven University (Belgium), he is a member of the Dutch Royal Society of Arts and Sciences, and one of the co-founders of the Helmholtz Institute in Utrecht. His interests include the mathematics and psychophysics of space and form in vision and active touch, the structure of perceptual space, ecological physics, and applications in art and design. He is on the board of a dozen scientific journals in various fields and wrote over 200 scientific papers. Perception scientists also know him from his penetrating and beautifully written editorials in Perception or the mathematical foundations he developed for Gibson's intuitions on optic flow and spatial layout or form. Much of his work is more popular in artificial intelligence (a field in which he is the most cited dutch professor) than in perception research, probably due to the high level of abstraction and sophisticated mathematics in his papers. Yet his work on ecological physics, on light fields interacting with physical and biological surfaces, from gold to horse hair or oranges, will no doubt have a lasting impact once it is discovered by perception scientists. Similarly his work in picture perception, transparency, image space, visual space and color space is of lasting importance to visual perception. Whereas papers in molecular biology have a citation half-life of a few years, Jan's papers have a citation half-life of more like 10-20 years. His youth-work on optic flow and shape perception has only recently become more popular in perception science and its major impact might very well be yet to come. If you want to be 10-20 years ahead in your field you'd better start reading his more recent papers. We hope the Rank lecture at the ECVP 2008 in Utrecht will give you a taste for this impressive body of work, by one of the most original theoreticians and psychophisicists in the field of perception.

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