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BVI Seminar: Visual concealment as foreign policy: camouflage as signaling friends and foes.
March 24 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
László Tálas, Camo Lab, University of Bristol
Abstract: Why do armies operating in the same environment (e.g. temperate woodland) wear markedly different dress? The primary function of military camouflage is generally understood to be concealment, however the vast diversity of camouflage patterns (over 600 patterns in the past century) suggests additional design factors. One hypothesis is that camouflage patterns can also act as signals of alliance and aiding soldiers to distinguish friend from foe. On the other hand, newly independent states can endorse their identity by issuing distinctive camouflage. In both cases designs must remain constrained to function as adequate concealment. The aim of this talk is to demonstrate how a phylogenetic model can be useful for testing these hypotheses. In order to quantify similarity between patterns, I used methods from computer vision to compare their texture and colour. Camouflage of countries can be represented as phylogenies as temporal information (e.g. when patterns were issued) is readily available. Combining computer vision-derived metrics and phylogenetic analysis, I show how certain “design drifts” can be detected throughout the history of camouflage uniforms.
Biography: László completed his PhD at University of Bristol, with his research focusing on the cultural evolution of camouflage patterns, supervised by Innes Cuthill, Dave Bull, and Gavin Thomas. He now works as a postdoctoral research associate in the Camo Lab at University of Bristol.