LEWISTON — Bates College has received a nearly $4 million federal grant to create a new scientific video database.
It’s the largest federal grant Bates has received.

Assistant professor of neuroscience Michelle Greene is the principal investigator for the project to create a Visual Experience Database. Bates College photo

The $3.97 million from the National Science Foundation will be used to create a groundbreaking Visual Experience Database to support research in fields that rely on the analysis and recognition of images, such as neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence, according to the college.

The “vast gallery of videos” will depict what, and how, people see as they go about their daily activities, the college said.

As Bates described it, “Wearing cameras that simulate human vision, as well as devices to track head and eye movements, observers will undertake routine activities such as walking, shopping, or touring a museum.”

Ultimately, the database is expected to compile more than 240 hours of video created specifically for this project and make all of it accessible on a public database.

Michelle Greene, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Bates who studies how the brain makes sense of what we see, is the principal investigator for the project.

“I’m delighted and overwhelmed,” Greene said in a prepared statement, “and intensely excited. I have a terrific team of co-principal investigators, so fostering and furthering those connections will make these next four years really fun.”

The grant application was done in collaboration with researchers at North Dakota State University and the University of Nevada, Reno, the college said.

“We are honored to be the lead partner in this multi-state collaboration,” Bates President Clayton Spencer said in prepared remarks.

“This grant is important for Maine, Nevada, and North Dakota, and it also has the potential for significant impact on the future of vision research, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence,” she said.

“Maine’s colleges and universities are consistently at the forefront of groundbreaking research that improves people’s lives and enhances our understanding of the world around us,” U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine said in a joint statement.

They added, “Through this funding, Bates College will partner with two other universities to build a database to study human behavior and development through first-person experiences. We applaud the NSF’s investment in Bates’ project, which will help advance the field of vision science.”


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