## Abstract

The problem of color constancy may be solved if we can recover the physical properties of illuminants and surfaces from photosensor responses. We consider this problem within the framework of Bayesian decision theory. First, we model the relation among illuminants, surfaces, and photosensor responses. Second, we construct prior distributions that describe the probability that particular illuminants and surfaces exist in the world. Given a set of photosensor responses, we can then use Bayes’s rule to compute the posterior distribution for the illuminants and the surfaces in the scene. There are two widely used methods for obtaining a single best estimate from a posterior distribution. These are maximum *a posteriori* (MAP) and minimum mean-squared-error (MMSE) estimation. We argue that neither is appropriate for perception problems. We describe a new estimator, which we call the maximum local mass (MLM) estimate, that integrates local probability density. The new method uses an optimality criterion that is appropriate for perception tasks: It finds the most probable approximately correct answer. For the case of low observation noise, we provide an efficient approximation. We develop the MLM estimator for the color-constancy problem in which flat matte surfaces are uniformly illuminated. In simulations we show that the MLM method performs better than the MAP estimator and better than a number of standard color-constancy algorithms. We note conditions under which even the optimal estimator produces poor estimates: when the spectral properties of the surfaces in the scene are biased.

© 1997 Optical Society of America

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