Scientists uncover why picture perception works

September 20, 2005

A team of scientists has solved a key mystery of visual perception. Why do pictures look the same when viewed from different angles?

When you look at a picture, there is only one viewing position--the picture's center of projection--that yields a correct image at your eye. For example, there's but one place in the movie theater where the film creates the same image at your eye as the original scene. Viewing from other places causes distortion of the image at your eye. Why, then, don't moviegoers rush to the correct position? Indeed, do they even know where that position is?

Martin S. Banks, Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of California at Berkeley, Dhanraj Vishwanath, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Rochester Institute of Technology, and Ahna Girshick, a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, have developed a new scientific model of the processes underlying the phenomena. Their results will be presented in the upcoming edition of Nature Neuroscience.

"If the brain processed pictures in the same way it did real objects, you should actually see things in the picture change and distort for every different location you view it from," Banks says. "The human visual system automatically corrects such distortions, but researchers have not been able to pinpoint how this correction occurs."

Using a series of psychophysical experiments, Vishwanath, Girshick and Banks were able to show that the human visual system flexibly adjusts to viewing position such that sitting at the right place isn't required. The brain makes small adjustments to the image the eyes receive, such that the picture appears the way it is supposed to--even when you look at it from different locations. The work has implications for designing better devices that display 3D pictures, and also for creating more realistic computer-graphic images. It will also increase our understanding of how the eyes and brain work, providing insight for both medical and psychological use.

"Visual perception of displayed images is a key factor in human decision making," Vishwanath notes, "Properly describing how humans view and perceive images will provide a better understanding of why people respond positively to some images and negatively to others."

Source: Rochester Institute of Technology

Explore further: Smartphones to battle crop disease

Related Stories

Smartphones to battle crop disease

November 24, 2015

EPFL and Penn State University are releasing an unprecedented 50,000 open-access photos of plant diseases. The images will be used to build an app that will turn smartphones into plant doctors, helping growers around the ...

'Star Wars': a game-changer in special effects

November 13, 2015

When "Star Wars" audiences were blown away four decades ago by its thrilling battles in space, they were also witnessing a big bang in special effects that is still felt today, as fans await the next installment in the blockbuster ...

Facebook wants to tap robot brains to do your bidding

November 3, 2015

Facebook is studying the ancient Chinese game of Go for insights as it works on building an artificial brain—one that it hopes to turn into a virtual personal assistant that can also sort through a mountain of photos, videos ...

A program that captions your photos

November 16, 2015

Two researchers at Idiap, a research institute in Martigny that is affiliated with EPFL, developed an algorithm that – unlike systems recently unveiled by Google and Microsoft – can describe an image without having to ...

Recommended for you

Amazon deforestation leaps 16 percent in 2015

November 28, 2015

Illegal logging and clearing of Brazil's Amazon rainforest increased 16 percent in the last year, the government said, in a setback to the aim of stopping destruction of the world's greatest forest by 2030.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.