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Virtual Reality for Spiders

July 27, 2015

Virtual reality helps researchers study animal behavior and learning.



Jumping Spider Rowan McGinley

Jumping spiders have excellent vision for an animal of their size, making them good candidates for virtual reality. (Rowan McGinley)

A holodeck for spiders. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Virtual reality allows us to interact with computer-simulated worlds as if they were real. But the technology isn’t just for humans. Using 3-D gaming software, Macquarie University researchers Phillip Taylor and Tina Peckmezian created interactive virtual environments for jumping spiders to see if they would behave normally in a simulated world.

TINA PECKMEZIAN (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia):

So what we found was that both the activity levels of spiders and their individual preferences were similar in the real and virtual world.


What’s more, they applied information they had learned in the real world to the virtual one. Peckmezian says the technology allows researchers to carefully control all of the variables in an experiment. She and Taylor write in the journal Animal Behaviour that virtual reality could be used to study navigation, social interactions, and how the spiders distinguish friend from foe. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.