Abstract

Underwater, natural illumination typically varies strongly temporally and spatially. The reason is that waves on the water surface refract light into the water in a spatiotemporally varying manner. The resulting underwater illumination field forms a caustic network and is known as flicker. This work shows that caustics can be useful for stereoscopic vision, naturally leading to range mapping of the scene. Range triangulation by stereoscopic vision requires the determination of correspondence between image points in different viewpoints, which is often a difficult problem. We show that the spatiotemporal caustic pattern very effectively establishes stereo correspondences. Thus, we term the use of this effect as CauStereo. The temporal radiance variations due to flicker are unique to each object point, thus disambiguating the correspondence, with very simple calculations. Theoretical limitations of the method are analyzed using ray-tracing simulations. The method is demonstrated by underwater in situ experiments.

© 2011 Optical Society of America

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