A couple years ago we reported on the amazing fact that chickens have image stabilized heads, and shared some interesting “research” into using chickens as camera stabilizers. It turns out birds aren’t the only creatures with IS systems built into their hardware: cats have it too!
It works pretty well, but falls short of the crazy stabilization found in owls:
Human bodies have a similar feature, but our stabilization involves mostly our eyes rather than our entire head. It’s called the vestibulo-ocular reflex. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:
The vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is a reflex eye movement that stabilizes images on the retina during head movement by producing an eye movement in the direction opposite to head movement, thus preserving the image on the center of the visual field. For example, when the head moves to the right, the eyes move to the left, and vice versa. Since slight head movement is present all the time, the VOR is very important for stabilizing vision: patients whose VOR is impaired find it difficult to read using print, because they cannot stabilize the eyes during small head tremors. The VOR does not depend on visual input and works even in total darkness or when the eyes are closed.
[…] The vestibulo-ocular reflex needs to be fast: for clear vision, head movement must be compensated almost immediately; otherwise, vision corresponds to a photograph taken with a shaky hand. To achieve clear vision, signals from the semicircular canals are sent as directly as possible to the eye muscles: the connection involves only three neurons, and is correspondingly called the three neuron arc. Using these direct connections, eye movements lag the head movements by less than 10 ms, and thus the vestibulo-ocular reflex is one of the fastest reflexes in the human body.
Here’s a video showing human image stabilization in action:
Someone should definitely do research into how many stops are gained by the IS systems in animals and humans. Agree?