Toward a Theory of Shape from Specular Flow Academic Article uri icon


  • The image of a curved, specular (mirror-like) surface is a distorted reflection of the environment. The goal of our work is to develop a framework for recovering general shape from such distortions when the environment is neither calibrated nor known. To achieve this goal we consider far-field illumination, where the object-environment distance is relatively large, and we examine the dense specular flow that is induced on the image plane through relative object-environment motion. We show that under these very practical conditions the observed specular flow can be related to surface shape through a pair of coupled nonlinear partial differential equations. Importantly, this relationship depends only on the environment's relative motion and not its content. We examine the qualitative properties of these equations, present analytic methods for recovery of the shape in several special cases, and empirically validate our results using captured data. We also discuss the relevance to both computer vision and human perception.

publication date

  • January 1, 2007