The perception of translucency from surface gloss

Vision Res. 2022 Nov 3;108140. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2022.108140. Online ahead of print.


Translucent objects (like fruit and wax) reflect and transmit incident light to generate complex retinal image structure. Understanding how we visually perceive translucency from these images is challenging, but previous studies have demonstrated that perceived shape and shading is important for perceiving translucency. We considered the possibility that perceived translucency might also depend on 3D shape inferred from surface gloss (i.e., shape from specular highlights). Here, we performed experiments to test whether interactions between specular and non-specular image properties generated by different 3D shape information influences perceived translucency. Results revealed that perceived translucency could be explained by incongruence in 3D shape used to generate specular and non-specular image components. We proposed a new computational model based on measurable image features informative of shading relative to specular highlights that accounted for 59% of the variability in judgments of perceived translucency from the result of 10-fold cross validation. This model was found to outperform other models based on explicit subjective measures of perceived surface shape, suggesting it implicitly taps much of the relevant geometric information necessary for predicting observer judgments of translucency for glossy materials. These results provide new insight into how the visual system might infer translucency from the structure of specular and non-specular shading generated by glossy semi-opaque materials.

Keywords: 3D shape; Image feature; Material perception; Translucency; Visual perception.