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Using your eye-deas to improve Asteroid!


Hello eye enthusiasts, and welcome to another exciting instalment of (drumroll please….) ASTEROID ADVENTURES!

We here at Asteroid HQ are always trying to make the Asteroid the best it can be. We’ve been to a lot of schools and nurseries in Newcastle, and we always like asking our participants how much they enjoy playing Asteroid. It is important to us that their feedback and results change the game for the better! Because of this, we decided to take our Asteroid tablets out to the Great North Museum and the Centre for Life to find out more on how we can improve them.

Those of you who have been to either the Centre for Life or The Great North Museum know how much fun they both are – jam-packed full of activities for young ones and their parents to learn more about science. What a perfect fit for the Asteroid 3d eye game! During both sessions, we met some lovely and clever children for some more 3D eye games and activities. There were some older children, but there were also some younger participants. Our youngest visitor was 19 months old! Of course, we had our eye-catching optical illusion displays and distortion goggle activities in store as per usual. But the stars of the show are always our Asteroid tablets – everyone who took part was so excited to have a go that some people queued up to wait for their turn. The more, the merrier – that’s what we say! Of course, everyone who took part walked away with a little prize afterwards: a fabulous certificate signed by Dr Vancleef and a sparkly sticker! What more could be better??

Have a look below at some of the pictures we took before we opened to public visitors. If it looks like we had a lot of fun, it’s certainly because we did!


Below are two pictures from the Meet the Scientist area at the Centre for Life. We brought along our Asteroid tablets, and also displayed our website. On the right are three out of the four Research Assistants: (l-r) Jess Hugill, Sheima Rafiq, and Therese Casanova. Looking very happy, girls!

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Below are three pictures from the Great North Museum visit. Here, you can see Jess trying out one of our distortion glasses. You can also see Carla Black, another of the Asteroid Research Assistants, peeping in the photo. 


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I hope you enjoyed this instalment of the Asteroid Blog. Until next time!








Work Package 1 Celebration event, from the other side

Back in the days when summer was around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to host a small “Celebration Event” to congratulate ourselves on the completion of Work Package 1 (or “WP1” for short) of the project. The notion being to rally together the core team who have been involved with WP1. The Ophthalmologist & Orthoptists from Newcastle Eye Clinic, Game developers from Fluid Pixel, Patient Panel members, local Optometrists, along with everyone based at the University, were invited to come together for a brief update on the project’s progress followed by food, drinks, and socialising. Sounds simple enough, surely we can get that arranged in no time – as long as we can find a date that everyone can attend… ah, now that’s where things get interesting. Well, perhaps not “interesting”; more like “tricky”. June, July, and August roll on without a date that could host a worthy attendance. We’ll just have to hold the meeting in September then. No, wait, that’s even worse. Ok, Wednesday 5th October 3:30pm ‘til late (late = 5/6PM). Done. It’s actually happening, FINALLY. There’s a date in the diary and it’s after summer so hopefully people can make it. They can! Well, nearly everyone – this isn’t a perfect world where I can summon people on request. People have work, lives, and other commitments that our event doesn’t stand a chance in competing against. We have a slight majority of 15-20 attendees, though. That will do nicely.


So, the date is set and the (rough) numbers are in. Grand! Now it’s time to make sure we have enough provisions. A finger buffet feels right. But not with sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are sandwiches but they are a bit boring and people get full up on them or just won’t eat them. Why? Because it’s nearly dinner time or because you’re on a diet that only allows you to eat food that’s sexy. So let’s keep it simple, picky, and tasty. A variety of Indian/Eastern-hemisphere inspired savoury items along with some chocolate dipped strawberries, cake and booze sounds… mmm… not bad, not bad at all (don’t you feel silly for not coming along? J). Sorted. That’s the important parts taken care of. All that needs to happen is for everyone to turn up and eat said provisions. Jolly good. The last reminder email is sent out a day or two before the event, and of course, there’s a dropout L but fear not, there’s usually other people who turn up last minute at these sorts of things as soon as they realise there’s free food & booze, right?


It’s now 3:25PM on Wednesday 5th October (2016…). Ah, excellent, the foresight of extra drop-ins comes true – “the force” is strong with this one. Numbers are bang on somewhere between 15 and 20 people (but if you insist, let’s say “18” if you really must know). Jenny (“Prof Read” to you, in that case) opens the event with a few words on the overall progress. Then we have talks delivered by: Graham & Craig from Computing Sciences on the eye tracking and distance monitoring; Stuart from Fluid Pixel on the game development; and Kathleen on how public and patient involvement/engagement (PPI/E) has contributed to the project’s direction. Followed by the RAs – Carla, Jess, and Sheima (Therese couldn’t make it, just saying… maybe she had better things to do…. but let’s not make a fuss or name and shame anyone, after all, she had a stand in photograph so we could pretend she was there), introducing themselves and informing how WP2 is going so far. Jenny then closed the event with a thank you to everyone for their efforts. This was the cue to get stuck in to the provisions, as a reward for said efforts.


Overall, the event went well. Everyone was happy: the talks were short and sweet; the food was satisfying and plentiful; and it was appreciated to have the chance to get together and celebrate the past 18 months of endeavours. Here’s to the remaining Work Packages of the project – may they be as successful, and as worthy of celebrating, as the first 🙂




A SEEriously Good Time at the Discovery Museum!

Hello eye enthusiasts!

When working for the Asteroid project, there are few things better than getting to see children enjoy the Asteroid 3D games! And let me tell you, our recent visit to the Discovery Museum was no exception. On Friday 28th October, the Asteroid research team, along with Teresa from the Newcastle Eye Health Clinic, got the chance to reach out to half-term museum goers and show them how fun Asteroid is. For a whole day, people were able to have a go at the Asteroid tablets, play some eye games, and have a look at some weird and wonderful optical illusions on display. Bean bags were involved – if that doesn’t spell out fun we don’t know what else will!

As the morning rolled on, more and more people stopped by the Asteroid area to find out about our research and have a go at some fun eye activities. Some even gave consent to take part in the study itself! Everyone seemed to particularly enjoy the optical illusions we had on show, especially the Moiré Effect and the Ames Room. For example, seeing a repetitive, overlapping pattern like the picture on the left creates the illusion of movement. This is the Moiré Effect in action.



The Ames Room, on the other hand, gives us insight on how our perception of the world around us works. The effect of the Ames room works best when it is seen through a peephole, in which case what you see would look like the picture on the right. Even though the room appears to be proportionally “normal”, it is actually built differently to most rooms. The floor is actually on an incline: The left side is lower than the right. The walls are also different – even though they look to be perpendicular to the floor, they are actually slanting outwards!

Everyone who took part in the activities seemed to really enjoy learning about the illusions on display. One visitor even expressed how much it showed her that “what you see isn’t always what you get”. Children of all ages came to play on the 3D tablets, which were by far the most popular choice for everyone who came by. In some parts of the afternoon, there were queues of excited youngsters waiting for their turn!

6 hours and countless bean bag throws later, it was time for the team to pack up and leave the museum. Before we left, we said goodbye to our friend from the Discovery Museum, Thomas Elwick, who was so accommodating throughout – he even had the chance to play on Asteroid himself! As the museum’s learning officer, he was keen on giving visitors a chance to learn more about how it’s not just our eyes that help us to see, but our brains as well. It was a brilliant day for the Asteroid team, and we hope that everyone we met enjoyed themselves just as much.

Watch out for our next blog post… it’s going to be eye-mazing!

A good morning’s coding

I’ve just come back from another fun morning working with Gareth down at Fluid Pixel. We are working on fine-tuning the critical 3D test image which we will be using to assess vision. Basically, it’s a pattern of small, colourful dots strewn randomly over the screen. On one side of the screen, a square patch of dots stands out in depth. The user’s job will be to spot this patch.  We are using this stimulus because it offers very little information, other than that provided by the 3D itself. In the vision science literature, it’s known as a dynamic random-dot stereogram, and it’s one of the most rigorous tests of binocular visual function.

We streamlined the code, fixed a few bugs and experimented with different dot sizes and densities.  I think the 3D patch is looking a lot clearer now. Tomorrow, Gareth and I will be sitting down again to work on the computer code which will control how demanding the test is. The basic idea is to start off easy and get harder, but it’s amazing how many ways there are of doing that!

Author: Jenny Read

Big ideas event at Seven Stories

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So we now have another event in our diary: on March 31st, we will present ASTEROID at the Big Ideas event at Seven Stories in the Ouseburn Valley! Using children’s books we will explain 3D vision to 10-12 year olds. I’ll be participating in several workshops organised by Seven Stories to explore how we could use children’s books for ASTEROID. So, I’ll be on a quest to find the perfect book for our project. What’s really exciting is that there are some artists involved too! They will be at the workshops inspiring us to make use of drama, film or cartoons in our activities. I’m curious what will come out of these workshops.  It will be great to explore new creative ways of communicating science! 


Author: Kathleen Vancleef