Marine biologists use connected sensors to monitor shark behaviour

Marine biologists use connected sensors to monitor shark behaviour

Marine biologists have used connected technology to monitor Oceanic Whitetip sharks and better understand their behaviour.

Oceanic Whitetip sharks move around the ocean with great efficiency, exploiting physics to maximize their energy surplus for both hunting and downtime.

In the past, tracking their movements hasn’t been easy, but thanks to an unusual collaboration between a team of marine biologists, an aerospace engineer and some statisticians, more is now known about these elusive animals. 

Over the last few years, this team has been able to generate precise calculations that shine a light on the size, swimming location, water temperatures and daily activities of whitetip sharks.

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Open water inhabitants

FIU marine scientist Yannis Papastamatiou, whose aim was to learn more about the elusive creatures, led the research. Whitetips tend to live in open water, making them much harder to study than their coastal relatives.

Papastamatiou has compared the whitetips’ habitat to a dessert: it’s a large ecosystem where there’s hardly any food available. A great deal of energy is thus expended on the hunt for prey. Papstamatiou wanted to know what behavior could maximize an animal’s energy surplus and understand if this is the way that oceanic whitetips behave.

He teamed up with aerospace engineer Gil Iosilevskii from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology to work out some calculations, based on the optimal flight performance for aircraft. These models, it was determined, could predict the optimal swim speeds for sharks, as well as the best speeds and angles for dives. 

Read more: London Zoo turns to IoT to tackle global poaching menace

Utilising connected tech

The researchers carried out this project in the Bahamas, which is a populous area for whitetips. They tagged the sharks with connected sensors to explore their speed, acceleration and depth.

As well as the sensors, they also used cameras for two sharks. The scientists found that sharks tend to behave optimally, controlling their speed constantly as they ascend and descend.

One of the sharks was able to travel from 160 meters at 4 meters per second vertically, breaching the surface. Normal speed for these animals tends to range from 0.6 to 0.7 per second, so this was a remarkable finding.

“I can’t imagine this shark could see something at the surface from that depth,” said Papastamatiou. “It was going full force in a vertical ascent.” He intends to continue his studies into these large marine predators, using physics, biology and the IoT. 

Read more: Underwater NB-IoT: SMRU tracks seals for environmental data

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Tobii Pro combines eye tracking with VR to understand human behaviour

eye tracking using vr technology tobii pro

Stockholm-based Tobii Pro is a world leader in eye-tracking technology, with its products and services used by businesses and academic institutions around the world. Now, it is combining eye tracking solutions with virtual reality. 

Eye-tracking technology is a widespread method employed by organizations and institutions keen to understand human behavior better. The movement of the eyes offers information about much more than what we are looking at. Eye tracking is also a doorway into what draws our attention and for how long it keeps it. It’s a simple, objective way to observe the conscious and unconscious mind at work.

There are plenty of parties interested in applying eye-tracking technology, from advertisers conducting market research to psychologists observing phobias.

In this regard, Tobii Pro has notched up a real track record. It currently provides eye-tracking research products and services to every one of the world’s top 50 universities, four of the top five global market research organizations and 18 of the world’s top 20 advertising spenders.

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Eye tracking meets VR

Tobii Pro has now announced new research solutions that combine eye tracking with virtual reality (VR). This will allow the company’s partners to conduct eye-tracking research within virtual environments, supporting potentially endless new experiments.

The new eye-tracking solution has been embedded into HTC’s Vive headset and comes with Tobii Pro’s software development kit. Researchers will now be able to conduct experiments in virtual environments that would otherwise be too costly, dangerous or difficult to create in real life.

Modernizing the toolkit

Tobii Pro’s new VR eye-tracking solution promises to open doors for researchers of human behavior. Most notably, scientists eager to better understand anxieties, phobias and disorders such as PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] can now carefully control stimuli, regulate scenarios and study without putting participants at risk.

This is because with VR, the real world can be duplicated to allow for stricter controls on variables than behavioural studies usually support.

The technology is also useful for testing professionals in disciplines where on-the-job training might put lives at risk. Tobii Pro highlights surgeons and crane operators as examples in which the need to ensure professional skills are constantly assessed and sharpened cannot be met in the real world.

Recreating these high-risk environments virtually and applying eye-tracking technology will provide objective insights into situational awareness and form an ideal training tool.

“Combining eye tracking with VR is growing as a research methodology and our customers have started to demand this technology to be part of their toolkit for behavioral studies,” said Tobii Pro president Tom Englund.

“The Tobii Pro VR Integration is our first step in making eye tracking in immersive VR a reliable and effective research tool for a range of fields. It marks our first major expansion of VR-based research tools.”

Read more: Lloyds is banking on Virtual Reality to attract top grads

The combination of eye tracking and VR could help researchers tackle phobias.

Retrofitting HTC hardware

Tobii Pro’s new VR solution is a retrofit of the HTC Vive business edition headset. It’s capable of eye tracking all types of eyes and collecting binocular eye tracking data at 120 Hz.

The headset can be used in conjunction with handheld controllers. It’s been designed not to compromise the user experience or the output of eye tracking data.

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Contextual-aware driving behaviour: What is it?

The traditional way to assess driving behaviour is to combine quantifiable events such as acceleration, braking, swerving, cornering, etc. with data on the vehicle’s location. That’s the way usage-based insurance operates, says Bob Emmerson, a freelance writer and telecoms industry observer. Together with policyholders’ profile and historical actuarial data it allows insurers to determine causal risk. […]

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