Active Estimation of Distance in a Robotic Vision System that Replicates Human Eye Movement
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Many visual cues, both binocular and monocular, provide 3D information. When an agent moves with respect to a scene, an important cue is the different motion of objects located at various distances. While a motion parallax is evident for large translations of the agent, in most head/eye systems a small parallax occurs also during rotations of the cameras. A similar parallax is present also in the human eye. During a relocation of gaze, the shift in the retinal projection of an object depends not only on the amplitude of the movement, but also on the distance of the object with respect to the observer. This study proposes a method for estimating distance on the basis of the parallax that emerges from rotations of a camera. A pan/tilt system specifically designed to reproduce the oculomotor parallax present in the human eye was used to replicate the oculomotor strategy by which humans scan visual scenes. We show that the oculomotor parallax provides accurate estimation of distance during sequences of eye movements. In a system that actively scans a visual scene, challenging tasks such as image segmentation and figure/ground segregation greatly benefit from this cue.