Use of virtual tangent screen in mworks 0.5.1

Alessandro Di Filippo's Avatar

Alessandro Di Filippo

26 Jun, 2014 08:01 AM

Dear developers,

I'm from Zoccolan Lab in SISSA.
I'm starting to use mworks for a simple electrophysiological experiments with rats, where I need to show some gratings on the screen.
I'm actually facing a problem with the implementation of the virtual tangent screen: despite having set it on in the setup variables, I actually see no change on the screen.
Moreover, I would like to know if there is some documentation regarding the calculation mworks makes to set screen degrees from the display size, it would be really helpful.
Thanks for your support!
Alessandro

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Christopher Sta... on 27 Jun, 2014 03:47 PM

    Christopher Stawarz's Avatar

    Hi Alessandro,

    For assistance with the virtual tangent screen, you'll need to contact Dave Cox. I'm not familiar with Dave's plans for the feature, but at present it has not been merged in to the main MWorks code base (hence its absence from the 0.5.1 release).

    Moreover, I would like to know if there is some documentation regarding the calculation mworks makes to set screen degrees from the display size

    Here's the calculation that MWorks performs:

    half_width_deg = (180 / pi) * atan((width / 2) / distance)
    half_height_deg = half_width_deg * height / width
    
    left = -half_width_deg
    right = half_width_deg
    top = half_height_deg
    bottom = -half_height_deg
    

    Cheers,
    Chris Stawarz

  2. 2 Posted by Alessandro Di F... on 28 Jun, 2014 01:32 PM

    Alessandro Di Filippo's Avatar

    Hi Cristopher,
    Thanks for your answers!

    Regarding the use of virtual tangent screen, I will contact Dave Cox.

    Regarding the calculation of display angles, in my case (a 103x58cm monitor at a distance of 30 cm) I expect a value in degrees of 120x88, but instead mworks is giving me 120x67.
    Can you please explain why the half_height_deg is calculated in this way, and not simply by repeating the formula used for half_width_deg?
    I assume it has something to do with the aspect ratio of the screen, but I'm not sure.

    Thanks for your willingness.
    Alessandro

  3. Support Staff 3 Posted by Christopher Sta... on 02 Jul, 2014 04:02 PM

    Christopher Stawarz's Avatar

    Hi Alessandro,

    Regarding the calculation of display angles, in my case (a 103x58cm monitor at a distance of 30 cm) I expect a value in degrees of 120x88, but instead mworks is giving me 120x67. Can you please explain why the half_height_deg is calculated in this way, and not simply by repeating the formula used for half_width_deg?

    The code that does that calculation predates my involvement with MWorks, so I had to think about it for a while. Here's how this works:

    If the stimulus observer's eye is at distance d from the center of the display, then the visual angle V subtended by a circle of radius r whose center coincides with that of the display is given (in radians) by

    V = 2 * atan(r / d)
    

    which is basically the equation for half_width_deg given above.

    Now, the point of these calculations is to define a mapping from degrees of visual angle to display pixels. In order for this mapping to preserve the shapes of stimuli (e.g. so that the aspect ratio of a rectangle does not change when the coordinates of its vertices are converted from degrees to pixels), we need it to be both linear and identical in every direction. Put another way, if a given visual angle is increased by ΔV, then the corresponding change in radius Δr should be independent of both r and the direction of the radius vector. More formally, we need the derivative of r with respect to V to be constant.

    Rearranging the previous equation to express r as a function of V, we get

    r = d * tan(V / 2)
    

    The derivative of this equation is not constant with respect to V. However, if V/2 is small, then we can apply the small-angle approximation, and the above equation simplifies to

    r = d * (V / 2)
    

    which does have a constant derivative.

    Getting back to your question, the above equation yields the following formulas for half_width_deg and half_height_deg:

    half_width_deg  = (180 / pi) * (width  / 2) / distance
    half_height_deg = (180 / pi) * (height / 2) / distance
    

    Dividing the second equation by the first and multiplying by half_width_deg gives

    half_height_deg = half_width_deg * height / width
    

    which is exactly the equation MWorks uses to compute half_height_deg.

    Now, since we used the small-angle approximation to get to this point, the validity of these results depends on the angle V/2 being suitably small. In order to keep the relative error within 2%, V/2 must be no larger than about 14 degrees. This implies that the distance from the observer's eye to the center of the display should be at least twice the display's largest dimension, i.e.

    distance >= 2 * max(width, height)
    

    In the case of your setup, this relation does not hold, which is why the display dimensions calculated by MWorks differ from what you expect.

    The upshot here is that, for your setup, describing positions and sizes in terms of visual angle just isn't going to be very useful, because those coordinates can't be mapped on to pixels in a linear fashion. Instead, you'll need to pick a different coordinate system that does vary linearly with pixels, and then choose values for the width, height, and distance to the display that yield the bounds you want.

    In the future, MWorks probably should provide built-in support for alternative coordinate systems. PsychoPy seems to offer a nice set of unit options, so we may want to follow their lead.

    I hope you find this helpful. If you have additional questions, please let me know.

    Chris

  4. 4 Posted by Alessandro Di F... on 03 Jul, 2014 08:50 AM

    Alessandro Di Filippo's Avatar

    Hi Christopher,

    Thanks for your time and your explanation, now everything is clear.
    I will try to find some other way to solve this issue.

    Thanks again for your willingness.
    Ale

  5. Christopher Stawarz closed this discussion on 03 Jul, 2014 01:56 PM.

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