The brain detects 3D shape fragments (bumps, hollows, shafts, spheres) in the beginning stages of object vision -- a newly discovered strategy of natural intelligence that Johns Hopkins University researchers also found in artificial intelligence networks trained to recognize visual objects.
A new paper in Current Biology details how neurons in area V4, the first stage specific to the brain's object vision pathway, represent 3D shape fragments, not just the 2D shapes used to study V4 for the last 40 years. The Johns Hopkins researchers then identified nearly identical responses of artificial neurons, in an early stage (layer 3) of AlexNet, an advanced computer vision network. In both natural and artificial vision, early detection of 3D shape presumably aids interpretation of solid, 3D objects in the real world.
One of the long-standing challenges for artificial intelligence has been to replicate human vision. Deep (multilayer) networks like AlexNet have achieved major gains in object recognition, based on high capacity Graphical Processing Units (GPU) developed for gaming and massive training sets fed by the explosion of images and videos on the Internet.