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J. Farley Norman, Young-lim Lee, Flip Phillips, Hideko F. Norman, L. RaShae Jennings, T. Ryan McBride; The perception of 3-D shape from shadows cast onto curved surfaces. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/9.8.60.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In a natural environment, cast shadows abound. Objects cast shadows both upon themselves and upon background surfaces. Previous research on the perception of 3-D shape from cast shadows has only examined the informativeness of shadows cast upon flat background surfaces. In outdoor environments, however, background surfaces often possess significant curvature (large rocks, trees, hills, etc.) and this background curvature distorts the shape of cast shadows. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which observers can “discount” the distorting effects of curved background surfaces. In our experiments, observers viewed deforming or static shadows of naturally-shaped objects that were cast upon flat and curved background surfaces. The results showed that the discrimination of 3-D object shape from cast shadows was generally invariant over the distortions produced by hemispherical background surfaces. The observers often had difficulty, however, in identifying the shadows cast onto saddle-shaped background surfaces. The variations in curvature that occur in different directions on saddle-shaped background surfaces cause shadow distortions that lead to difficulties in object recognition and discrimination.
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