Virtual Reality (VR) has only recently been adopted by consumers, it is currently being experimented with and integrated into a variety of niches such as medicine, surgery, architecture, gaming, and more.
Professor Andrew Straw who studies neural circuits and behaviour at the University of Freiburg, Germany, has developed a one of a kind VR environment, that caters to tiny lab animals, but it’s the first step to a future with potential for safer and more controlled testing.
While VR allows us to escape our surroundings to a better place and beyond, the same can now be said for our dear friends, the lab animals.
Lab animals are now able to be a part of the immersive world of Virtual Reality, without the need of any of the physical gear being attached to them! Animals as small as Mice and fruit flies, can have their behaviour manipulated to follow a path set by the human testers.
The video below shows how a fly moving in such a setting.
You can see from the video that a fly is being made to do repeated figure 8’s in the setting, which is difficult enough to do, but the help of the VR environment has made it possible for the researchers to carry out without using special gear on the creatures, and simply using strong visual indicators.
Aptly named as the FreemoVR, a VR system for freely moving animals. Will change the way animal behaviour is observed. Starting off with small sized animals, such as mice, flies and zebra fish.
The VR has already given promising results with one of the animals under examination; zebrafish demonstrated that their prospective leader balances their internally preferred directional choice with social interaction.
This is only the first step towards better studying animals without the costs of transport, safety of the crew, and other costly barriers towards animal behaviour research, while also saving the animal from potential physical dangers.
We are still a far cry from having these tests done on bigger animals as those environments will have to be greater in scale and require more equipment, but the pay-off would be significant, as studying animals has helped towards many great scientific strides.