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Philip W. Fink, Patrick S. Foo, William H. Warren; Catching fly balls in virtual reality: A critical test of the outfielder problem. Journal of Vision 2009;9(13):14. doi: 10.1167/9.13.14.
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How does a baseball outfielder know where to run to catch a fly ball? The “outfielder problem” remains unresolved, and its solution would provide a window into the visual control of action. It may seem obvious that human action is based on an internal model of the physical world, such that the fielder predicts the landing point based on a mental model of the balls trajectory (TP). However, two alternative theories, Optical Acceleration Cancellation (OAC) and Linear Optical Trajectory (LOT), propose that fielders are led to the right place at the right time by coupling their movements to visual information in a continuous “online” manner. All three theories predict successful catches and similar running paths. We provide a critical test by using virtual reality to perturb the vertical motion of the ball in mid-flight. The results confirm the predictions of OAC but are at odds with LOT and TP.
Note: *Significant difference ( p < 0.05) between R 2 for the first and second halves of a trial. **Significant difference ( p < 0.05) between R 2 for normal and perturbed fly balls.
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