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Shortly after earning his PhD at the University of Keele (1970), Dr. Tyler became a Research Fellow at Bell Labs (1974–75), where he worked with Bela Julesz, a vision scientist, psychologist and MacArthur Fellow. Julesz, who is well known for his invention of the random dot stereogram, used a computer to create a stereo pair of random-dot images that, when viewed under a stereoscope, caused the brain to see 3-dimensional shapes. This proved that depth perception is a neurological process. After leaving Bell Labs, Tyler took a position at Smith-Kettlewell Institute of Visual Sciences, where he significantly advanced Julesz’s research (in 1979) when he invented the first “random-dot autostereogram” (also known as single-image random-dot stereogram). These images were later known as the “Magic Eye” after they were popularized by several N.E. Thing Enterprises publications that spent a number of weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. The invention of the autostereogram made it possible for a person to see 3-dimensional shapes from a single 2-dimensional image without the aid of optical equipment.
Tyler's scientific interests are in visual perception and visual neuroscience. His research has contributed to the study of form, symmetry, flicker, motion, color, and stereoscopic depth perception in adults and he has developed tests for the diagnosis of eye diseases in infants and of retinal and optic nerve diseases in adults. He has also studied visual processing and photoreceptor dynamics in other species such as butterflies and fish. His recent scientific work concerns theoretical, psychophysical and functional MRI studies of the structure of global processes such as structure from motion, symmetry, figure/ground and stereoscopic depth perception.
Tyler's art investigation articles fall under various topics, including composition, perspective studies, the eye-centering controversy, David Hockney's optical hypothesis, Leonardo self-portraiture, Manet's last painting ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère,’ Masolino, space in 20th-century art, symmetry: art and neuroscience, structure of consciousness, and computer art. He makes convincing arguments against the thesis supported by Hockney's book “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters” that optical projection techniques aided many artist's paintings beginning in the early 15th century, particularly beginning some time between 1420–1595, citing variously Fabriano, Jan van Eyck, Pisanello, Mantegna, Melozzo di Forli, Cranach, Raphael and Moroni. Tyler indicates with computer reconstructions at his web site Art Optics that the art works under discussion are brilliant paintings by eye rather than those compatible with optical projections.
Tyler's present and recent past associates include Lora Likova, Chien-Chung Chen, Spero Nicholas, Mark Schira, Lenny Kontsevich, Russ Hamer, Lauren Barghout.