Electrical Engineering
      and Computer Sciences

Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

UC Berkeley

   

2009 Research Summary

The Assumed Light Direction for Perceiving Shape from Shading

View Current Project Information

James O'Shea1, Martin Banks2 and Maneesh Agrawala

Recovering 3D shapes from shading is an ill-posed problem that the visual system can solve only by making use of additional information such as the position of the light source. Previous research has shown that people tend to assume light is above and slightly to the left of the object [1]. We present a study to investigate whether the visual system also assumes the angle between the light direction and the viewing direction.

We conducted a shape perception experiment in which subjects estimated surface orientation on smooth, virtual 3D shapes displayed monocularly using local Lambertian shading without cast shadows. We varied the angle between the viewing direction and the light direction within a range +/- 66 degrees (above/below), and subjects indicated local surface orientation by rotating a gauge figure to appear normal to the surface.

Observer settings were more accurate and precise when the light was positioned above rather than below the viewpoint. Additionally, errors were minimized when the angle between the light direction and the viewing direction was 20-30 degrees. Measurements of surface slant and tilt error support this result. These findings confirm the light-from-above prior and provide evidence that the angle between the viewing direction and the light direction is assumed to be 20-30 degrees above the viewpoint.

Figure 1
Figure 1: The shading of an object's surface depends on the light source direction. The light is directed from the viewpoint in the left image, from 22 degrees above the viewpoint in the middle image, and from 44 degrees above the viewpoint in the right image. The object is positioned identically in each of the three views. In this project, we present an experiment designed to test how shape perception is affected by changing the angle of the light direction. We found the lighting used in the center image led to the most accurate estimations of 3D shape.

[1]
J. Sun and P. Perona, "Where Is the Sun?" Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 1998, pp. 183–184.
[2]
J. Koenderink, A. Van Doorn, and A. Kappers, "Surface Perception in Pictures," Perception and Psychophysics, Vol. 5, No. 52, 1992, pp. 487–496.

1Vision Science, University of California, Berkeley
2Vision Science, University of California, Berkeley