Quantifying navigational information: The catchment volumes of panoramic snapshots in outdoor scenes

Trevor Murray*, Jochen Zeil

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Panoramic views of natural environments provide visually navigating animals with two kinds of information: they define locations because image differences increase smoothly with distance from a reference location and they provide compass information, because image differences increase smoothly with rotation away from a reference orientation. The range over which a given reference image can provide navigational guidance (its ‘catchment area’) has to date been quantified from the perspective of walking animals by determining how image differences develop across the ground plane of natural habitats. However, to understand the information available to flying animals there is a need to characterize the ‘catchment volumes’ within which panoramic snapshots can provide navigational guidance. We used recently developed camera-based methods for constructing 3D models of natural environments and rendered panoramic views at defined locations within these models with the aim of mapping navigational information in three dimensions. We find that in relatively open woodland habitats, catchment volumes are surprisingly large extending for metres depending on the sensitivity of the viewer to image differences. The size and the shape of catchment volumes depend on the distance of visual features in the environment. Catchment volumes are smaller for reference images close to the ground and become larger for reference images at some distance from the ground and in more open environments. Interestingly, catchment volumes become smaller when only above horizon views are used and also when views include a 1 km distant panorama. We discuss the current limitations of mapping navigational information in natural environments and the relevance of our findings for our understanding of visual navigation in animals and autonomous robots.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0187226
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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