Developing commercially available solutions for head and eye tracking in small laboratory animals. This is the goal of the Proof of Concept grant SMARTLABCAM just awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) to Davide Zoccolan, director of the Visual Neuroscience Lab at SISSA.
The idea comes from his ongoing ERC project, LEARN2SEE, which aims at shedding new lights on the computational principles underlying object vision, by applying an array of multidisciplinary approaches, from psychophysics to neurophysiology and machine learning. The neuroscientist and his team realized that the field still lacks commercially available methods for 3D reconstruction of some key behavioural features, despite the importance of monitoring in real-time the motor behaviour of animal subjects for understanding the neuronal substrates of their cognitive functions, such as perception, memory and decision-making. This brought them to design, prototype and build two innovative and user-friendly systems for head and eye tracking in laboratory animals.
Through SMARTLABCAM Zoccolan plans to migrate the tracking algorithms already developed within LEARN2SEE to smart cameras, engineered for real-time, on-board processing of head/eye video streams. This project will be carried out in collaboration with CyNexo, a recently established SISSA startup that operates in the market of laboratory equipment.
Proof of Concept grants, worth €150,000 each, aim to help ERC grantees exploring the commercial or societal potential of their work. Today's announcement concerns the second funding round of 2019, in which the European Research Council awarded top-up funding totalling €9.3 million to 62 out of 132 applications. SMARTLABCAM is the second ERC Proof of Concept grant awarded to SISSA scientists. The School counts now 23 ERC projects since the foundation of the European Research Council in 2007, including 8 Starting Grants, 8 Advanced Grants, 5 Consolidator Grants.