Document Type

Digital Project

Publication Date


Publication Title

Tarsier Goggles


Charles Darwin viewed eyes as the epitome of evolution by natural selection, describing them as organs of extreme perfection and complication. The visual system is therefore fertile ground for teaching fundamental concepts in optics and biology, subjects with scant representation during the rise and spread of immersive technologies in K-12 education. The visual system is an ideal topic for three-dimensional (3D) virtual reality learning environments (VRLEs), and here we describe a 3D VRLE that simulates the vision of a tarsier, a nocturnal primate that lives in southeast Asia. Tarsiers are an enduring source of fascination for having enormous eyes, both in absolute size and in proportion to the size of the animal. Our motivation for developing a tarsier-inspired VRLE, or Tarsier Goggles, is to demonstrate the optical and selective advantages of hyper-enlarged eyes for a nocturnal visual predator. In addition to greater visual sensitivity, users also experience reductions in visual acuity and color vision. On a philosophical level, we can never know the visual world of another organism, but advances in 3D VRLEs allow us to try in the service of experiential learning and educational outreach.

Tarsier Goggles is a virtual reality (VR) project that allows everyone to experience how a tarsier might see. It serves as a tool to engage in hands-on scientific concepts in optics, perceptual science, and evolutionary biology, and also challenges our own thinking about our environment. The experience is self-guided and allows users to toggle between human and tarsier in order to explore different realistic environments with both sets of eyes. Built in Unity3D with SteamVR for the HTC Vive Pro. For various functionalities like teleportation, splash screens, and tooltips for our tutorial, we use Virtual Reality Toolkit (VRTK), an open source library. For many of the visual effects, we used Unity’s built-in post-processing stack. Our assets were built in Maya.


The Tarsier Goggles Project aims to let a user experience the world through the eyes of a tarsier. The experience focuses on different vision adaptions and the everyday life of these unique animals.


You will need a VR-ready Windows PC, with a copy of Unity 2018.2.12. It is also essential to have an HTC Vive with all hardware installed and the software (including SteamVR) configured and updated.

Download Instructions

  1. Download the to anywhere on your computer.
  2. Extract the Tarsier VR Build folder from the zip file, and enter that directory.
  3. Ensure that the SteamVR compositor is running (that SteamVR has started up, sensed the hardware, and is currently in the SteamVR Home app)
  4. Run the Tarsier-Goggles executable file.

Please review the Windows VivePro beta release for further information: