It’s easy to assume that there’s only one way to view the world, but in reality, different species perceive their surroundings very differently, based on the shape of their heads and the positioning of their eyes. We may never know if they see things that we can’t, but with this new range of immersive helmets, humans can finally get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in an animal’s shoes. Or head!
The fascinating aluminium helmets were created by Irish artists Anne Cleary and Dennis Connolly, from the architecture firm Cleary Connolly. Inspired by the pioneering experiments of psychologist George Malcolm Stratton in the early twentieth century, the duo spent several years trying to invent a device that could explore ‘the mysteries of visual perception’.
While Stratton had worn specially adapted glasses that inverted images, and found that the human brain could adapt to these new conditions, Cleary and Connolly wanted to make helmets that could make wearers question why humans see the world as we do. They also wanted people to realise that our vision is quite limited, while animals see their surroundings differently.
After many experiments, they finally managed to create meta devices that use optical tricks to create the illusion of non-human perspectives, such as the hyper-stereo vision of a hammerhead shark, or the 357-degree vision of a horse.
They managed to achieve this by using carefully set up mirrors inside helmets to direct light into a person’s eyeballs, quite similar to how a periscope works. Each one of their bizarre helmets is designed to act like a different animal’s vision. The Meta-Perceptual Helmets, for instance allow the wearer to experience the 360-degree hyper-stereo vision of the hammerhead shark, as if their eyes were spread much further apart.
Another shiny helmet lends its wearers the backward/forward vision of the chameleon, with metal spouts coming up from the top, and mirrors inside. The lizard-inspired helmet can make people look independently at two objects at the same time, although this can be a rather difficult and disorienting experience.
The giraffe helmet, on the other hand, gives people the feeling that they’re much taller than they actually are. And through the horse helmet, wearers can explore its wide peripheral vision, including a blind spot at the center.
Artists Cleary and Connolly also went so far as to design two helmets inspired by mythology and literature – one based on Cyclops vision, and the other based on the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. “The Cheshire Cat helmet is so called because of the strange lingering effect of dominating visual information such as a smile or the eyes,” they explained. “The Cyclops allows one large central eye to take in the world around while a second tiny hidden eye focuses on a close up task.”
The complete range of helmets were displayed at the National Museum of Ireland in November, and are currently at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, until February.
Photos: Clearly Connolly
via Design Taxi