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Cognition. 1998 Jul;67(1-2):45-71.

Recovery of 3D volume from 2-tone images of novel objects.

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Vision Sciences Laboratory, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.


In 2-tone images (e.g., Dallenbach's cow), only two levels of brightness are used to convey image structure-dark object regions and shadows are turned to black and light regions are light regions are turned white. Despite a lack of shading, hue and texture information, many 2-tone images of familiar objects and scenes are accurately interpreted, even by naive observers. Objects frequently appear fully volumetric and are distinct from their shadows. If perceptual interpretation of 2-tone images is accomplished via bottom-up processes on the basis of geometrical structure projected to the image (e.g., volumetric parts, contour and junction information) novel objects should appear volumetric as readily as their familiar counterparts. We demonstrate that accurate volumetric representations are rarely extracted from 2-tone images of novel objects, even when these objects are constructed from volumetric primitives such as generalized cones (Marr, D., Nishihara, H.K., 1978. Proceedings of the Royal Society London 200, 269-294; Biederman, I. 1985. Computer Vision, Graphics, and Image Processing 32, 29-73), or from the rearranged components of a familiar object which is itself recognizable as a 2-tone image. Even familiar volumes such as canonical bricks and cylinders require scenes with redundant structure (e.g., rows of cylinders) or explicit lighting (a lamp in the image) for recovery of global volumetric shape. We conclude that 2-tone image perception is not mediated by bottom-up extraction of geometrical features such as junctions or volumetric parts, but may rely on previously stored representations in memory and a model of the illumination of the scene. The success of this top-down strategy implies it is available for general object recognition in natural scenes.

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