Approaching Visual Search in Photo-Realistic Scenes
Cunningham, Robert K.
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Visual search is extended from the domain of polygonal figures presented on a uniform background to scenes in which search is for a photo-realistic object in a dense, naturalistic background. Scene generation for these displays relies on a powerful solid modeling program to define the three dimensional forms, surface properties, relative positions, and illumination of the objects and a rendering program to produce an image. Search in the presented experiments is for a rock with specific properties among other, similar rocks, although the method described can be generalized to other situations. Using this technique we explore the effects of illumination and shadows in aiding search for a rock in front of and closer to the viewer than other rocks in the scene. For these scenes, shadows of two different contrast levels can significantly deet·ease reaction times for displays in which target rocks are similar to distractor rocks. However, when the target rock is itself easily distinguishable from dis tractors on the basis of form, the presence or absence of shadows has no discernible effect. To relate our findings to those for earlier polygonal displays, we simplified the non-shadow displays so that only boundary information remained. For these simpler displays, search slopes (the reaction time as a function of the number of distractors) were significantly faster, indicating that the more complex photo-realistic objects require more time to process for visual search. In contrast with several previous experiments involving polygonal figures, we found no evidence for an effect of illumination direction on search times.