Section: Overall Objectives


Figure 2. Interactions/Transfers between real and virtual worlds. One of our goal is to combine optical instruments with processes from computer science in order to blend the two worlds.

Using a global approach

The main goal of the MANAO project is to study phenomena resulting from the interactions between the three components that describe light propagation and scattering in a 3D environment: light, shape, and matter. Improving knowledge about these phenomena facilitates the adaption of the developed digital, numerical, and analytic models to specific contexts. This leads to the development of new analysis tools, new representations, and new instruments for acquisition, visualization, and display.

To reach this goal, we have to first increase our understanding of the different phenomena resulting from the interactions between light, shape, and matter. For this purpose, we consider how they are captured or perceived by the final observer, taking into account the relative influence of each of the three components. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • The manipulation of light to reveal reflective  [34] or geometric properties  [103], as mastered by professional photographers;

  • The modification of material characteristics or lighting conditions  [104] to better understand shape features, for instance to decipher archaeological artifacts;

  • The large influence of shape on the captured variation of shading  [85] and thus on the perception of material properties  [100].

Based on the acquired knowledge of the influence of each of the components, we aim at developing new models that combine two or three of these components. Examples include the modeling of Bidirectional Texture Functions (BTFs)  [44] that encode in a unique representation effects of parallax, multiple light reflections, and also shadows without requiring to store separately the reflective properties and the meso-scale geometric details, or Light-Fields that are used to render 3D scenes by storing only the result of the interactions between light, shape, and matter both in complex real environments and in simulated ones.

One of the strengths of MANAO is that we are inter-connecting computer graphics and optics. On one side, the laws of physics are required to create images but may be bent to either increase performance or user's control: this is one of the key advantage of computer graphics approach. It is worth noticing that what is not possible in the real world may be possible in a digital world. However, on the other side, the introduced approximations may help to better comprehend the physical interactions of light, shape, and matter.

Taking observers into account

The MANAO project specifically aims at considering information transfer, first from the real world to the virtual world (acquisition and creation), then from computers to observers (visualization and display). For this purpose, we use a larger definition of what an observer is: it may be a human user or a physical sensor equipped with processing capabilities. Sensors and their characteristics must be taken into account in the same way as we take into account the human visual system in computer graphics. Similarly, computational capabilities may be compared to cognitive capabilities of human users. Some characteristics are common to all observers, such as the scale of observed phenomena. Some others are more specifics to a set of observers. For this purpose, we have identified two classes of applications.

  • Physical systems Provided our partnership that leads to close relationships with optics, one novelty of our approach is to extend the range of possible observers to physical sensors in order to work on domains such as simulation, mixed reality, and testing. Capturing, processing, and visualizing complex data is now more and more accessible to everyone, leading to the possible convergence of real and virtual worlds through visual signals. This signal is traditionally captured by cameras. It is now possible to augment them by projecting (e.g., the infrared laser of Microsoft Kinect) and capturing (e.g., GPS localization) other signals that are outside the visible range. These supplemental information replace values traditionally extracted from standard images and thus lower down requirements in computational power  [71]. Since the captured images are the result of the interactions between light, shape, and matter, the approaches and the improved knowledge from MANAO help in designing interactive acquisition and rendering technologies that are required to merge the real and the virtual world. With the resulting unified systems (optical and digital), transfer of pertinent information is favored and inefficient conversion is likely avoided, leading to new uses in interactive computer graphics applications, like augmented reality  [33], [41] and computational photography  [86].

  • Interactive visualization This direction includes domains such as scientific illustration and visualization, artistic or plausible rendering. In all these cases, the observer, a human, takes part in the process, justifying once more our focus on real-time methods. When targeting average users, characteristics as well as limitations of the human visual system should be taken into account: in particular, it is known that some configurations of light, shape, and matter have masking and facilitation effects on visual perception  [97]. For specialized applications, the expertise of the final user and the constraints for 3D user interfaces lead to new uses and dedicated solutions for models and algorithms.