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Maarten W.A. Wijntjes, Robert Volcic; Online shopping and the visual perception of fabric qualities. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):243c. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.243c.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Online shopping confronts us with an interesting problem: we first see the representation of something, and only later we see it in reality. If reality disappoints us, we return the product, which is an unsustainable scenario. This motivates the search for optimal (visual) representations that predict reality as good as possible. We investigated how to quantify the quality of apparel photos by measuring a set of perceived material attributes. We used images of 28 fabrics represented in four different styles (draped over ball, flat with wrinkles, 2 zoomed-in versions with different light). We let observers (n=153, distributed over different blocks) rate six attributes: warmth, softness, weight, shininess, elasticity and roughness on a continuous scale in an online experiment. Each setting was repeated 3 times. First, we computed intra-correlations of the 28 ratings for three repetition pairs and we found that they were stable across both attributes and photo styles. This implies that observers’ internal consistency did not depend on either attribute or style. Next, we analyzed correlations between observers, a measure of visual ambiguity. We found these to vary for both attributes and photo styles. Zoomed-in pictures were more ambiguous than zoomed-out. Furthermore, ‘shininess’ was least ambiguous, followed by ‘softness’, while the most ambiguous was ‘warmth’. We also performed a Principle Component Analysis which revealed that low dimensional embeddings had markedly different loadings for each or the four photo styles. Interestingly, the difference between the two zoomed-in picture was larger than between zoomed-out pictures. Moreover, explained variance was higher for first PCA components in the zoomed-out pictures. This results reveal that photographic styles influence perceived material qualities, and that certain styles are less ambiguous than others. Furthermore, this paradigm can easily be used for the ultimate test case of seeing and/or feeling the fabrics in reality.
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