The Virtual Pigeon’s Progress

Professor Shigeru Watanabe was one of the co-winners of the 1995 IgNobel psychology prize (for success in training pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Picasso and those of Monet.) Since then, the professor’s research team at Keio University, Japan, have linked up with Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, to create and test what could well be the world’s first  3-D virtual pigeon – for use in avian social perception investigations. The same 3-D modelling and rendering software used to create special effects for Batman Forever (Alias Wavefront®) was used to construct the cyber avian. Next, a series of laboratory tests with four experimentally naïve pigeons (obtained from the Japanese Association of Racing Pigeons) confirmed that they were, on the whole, reasonably convinced by the Computer Graphic (CG) bird.

“…the present results suggest that the virtual pigeon seems to be perceived as a real pigeon for the observing pigeons.”

Unfortunately, the resulting paper (published in Animal Cognition Volume 9, Number 4, pp.271-279) doesn’t have any photos of the CG bird – but Improbable has commissioned the creation of our own, different, 3-D ‘Virtual Pigeon’ which we present above (note: owing to the lack of photos in the paper, the degree of similarity with the team’s original is unknown.)

Towards a “virtual pigeon”: A new technique for investigating avian social perception can be read in full here.