Perception & Action Lab

3D Perception

In a short treatise on visual perception, Ernst Mach wrote that, "we do not see optical images in an optical space, but we perceive the bodies round about us in their many and sensuous qualities." To put it in more modern parlance, "A central puzzle in vision is how the brain infers properties of the world ('bodies round about us') from uncertain and ambiguous sensory data ('optical images in an optical space').

We use computational modeling to study, in theory, the nature of the visual information available in images about the 3-D shapes and orientations of surfaces in a scene, We use human psychophysics to decompose the computations used by the brain to perceive the world in 3-D. In our psychophysical studies, we use virtual reality displays to manipulate the visual information available to an observer and to measure their 3-D percepts. Projects in the lab have focused on a number of problems, including the perception of 3-D object motion from the motion of cast shadows, the perception of surface shape from contours, the perception of surface shape from texture and the perception of shape from shading. A major current focus of the lab is how the visual system integrates the information from different visual cues to generate a unified percept of 3D surface orientation and shape.