Active gaze control improves optic flow-based segmentation and steering.
An observer traversing an environment actively relocates gaze to fixate objects. Evidence suggests that gaze is frequently directed toward the center of an object considered as target but more likely toward the edges of an object that appears as an obstacle. We suggest that this difference in gaze might be motivated by specific patterns of optic flow that are generated by either fixating the center or edge of an object. To support our suggestion we derive an analytical model that shows: Tangentially fixating the outer surface of an obstacle leads to strong flow discontinuities that can be used for flow-based segmentation. Fixation of the target center while gaze and heading are locked without head-, body-, or eye-rotations gives rise to a symmetric expansion flow with its center at the point being approached, which facilitates steering toward a target. We conclude that gaze control incorporates ecological constraints to improve the robustness of steering and collision avoidance by actively generating flows appropriate to solve the task.