Parents will soon be able to see how their newborn infant views them, thanks to visual reconstruction research conducted by Swedish and Norwegian researchers. Jim Drury reports.
What does a newborn baby see when they look at you? Norwegian and Swedish psychologists and computer scientists say it's something like this. They combined existing knowledge of infants' vision with technology and mathematics to alter images of adults making various expressions. SOUNDBITE (English) OLOV VON HOFSTEN, RESEARCHER AT ECLIPSE OPTICS, SAYING: "By using mathematics we can deconstruct an image into sinusoidal greetings - or sinusoidal lines. Then for each of those functions we can decrease the contrast of that specific frequency, and then when we've done that... by using the same inverse mathematical process we can go back to the image and the image will be blurred in the same way as these sinusoidal gratings were blurred." The images were shown to adult volunteers, who identified facial expressions in three quarters of cases when viewed 30 centimetres away. The scores got progressively worse the further away the pictures were viewed. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR TIM BRENNEN, UNIVERSITY OF OSLO, SAYING: "Thirty centimetres, if you think about it, is about the distance that a mother will hold a baby when breastfeeding or cuddling, and so we think that it's quite an important distance evolutionarily, quite an important distance for a baby to be picking up mother's signals...we think that it's not just by chance that the results were much better at 30 centimetres than at 60 and 120." Team member Olov von Hofsten is developing an app that allows parents to download photos and see how their child views them. SOUNDBITE (English) OLOV VON HOFSTEN, RESEARCHER AT ECLIPSE OPTICS, SAYING: "We take lots of images today with our cameras and our phones. Any of those images can be filtered in the same manner just to see what newborns see." Mother of two Debra won't be buying it, though. SOUNDBITE (English) DEBRA TRICKETT, MORHER OF TWO, SAYING: "I wouldn't be bothered to do it myself....Maybe a first time mum is going to be more intrigued by it than someone who's a bit old and knackered." Parents have long been puzzled by how babies can mimic their expressions, sometimes within hours of birth. Thanks to this research future mums and dads could get a unique glimpse into the eyes of their child.