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Virtual Pigeon Attracts, Baffles Randy Males

Pigeons get a bad rap, but they’re clever little guys. They can distinguish between a Picasso and a Monet, and the visual cues they use to identify objects are almost the same as the ones used by humans. As a result, researchers delight at putting pigeons into awkward and peculiar situations in the name of [...]

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Photo: Biomotion Lab, Queens University

Pigeons get a bad rap, but they’re clever little guys. They can distinguish between a Picasso and a Monet, and the visual cues they use to identify objects are almost the same as the ones used by humans. As a result, researchers delight at putting pigeons into awkward and peculiar situations in the name of science. The virtual pigeon – the world’s first 3D pigeon – has flown into the scene, leaving a trail of confused mail birds in her computer-projected wake.

The Annals of Improbable Research reports on this development, which is used to study animal cognition:

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 new virtual pigeon is perhaps slightly more fun than the researchers’ 1998 video pigeon – essentially just images of “receptive females” on a screen – though frustrated males seem to be equally susceptible to the illusory charms of both video and virtual hens.

More from Smithsonian.com:

How a Pigeon is Like a Helicopter

In the Realm of Virtual Reality 

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