This paper is freely available at

Glennerster, A. (2016) A moving observer in a three-dimensional world. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B, 371(1697), 20150265

For many tasks such as retrieving a previously viewed object, an observer must form a representation of the world at one location and use it at another. A world-based three-dimensional reconstruction of the scene built up from visual information would fulfil this requirement, something computer vision now achieves with great speed and accuracy. However, I argue that it is neither easy nor necessary for the brain to do this. I discuss biologically plausible alternatives, including the possibility of avoiding three-dimensional coordinate frames such as ego-centric and world-based representations. For example, the distance, slant and local shape of surfaces dictate the propensity of visual features to move in the image with respect to one another as the observer's perspective changes (through movement or binocular viewing). Such propensities can be stored without the need for three-dimensional reference frames. The problem of representing a stable scene in the face of continual head and eye movements is an appropriate starting place for understanding the goal of three-dimensional vision, more so, I argue, than the case of a static binocular observer. This article is part of the themed issue 'Vision in our three-dimensional world'.

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