The visual contour in depth

Jan J. Koenderink*, Andrea J. van Doorn, Astrid M L Kappers, James T. Todd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We asked subjects to match points on the surface of a smooth three-dimensional (3-D) shape with points on the surface of another object that was geometrically identical to the first object but was placed in a different pose, was differently textured, and was differently shaded. In all cases, the fiducial point was on the rim of one of the objects (i.e., the boundary of the visible region of the surface), whereas the matching point was well within the silhouette of the other object This allowed us to draw (preliminary) conclusions concerning the way monocular human observers are able to handle the neighborhood of the rim, where the local slant assumes arbitrarily high values. All experiments were done in real space with real objects (no computer-simulated scenes), the points being indicated with laser beam illumination. The subject was given control over the direction of the laser beams and was thus able to perform the task by adjustment from the vantage position. We studied both consistency (whether the subject's judgments were invariant against changes of relative pose) and veridicality (whether the depth of the visual contour as calculated from the settings agreed with the true distance as measured by mechanical means). Subjects caught much of the 3-D structure of the contour but did deviate appreciably and apparently idiosyncratically from the true geometry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)828-838
Number of pages11
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997


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