Effects of depth cues on depth judgements using a field-sequential stereoscopic CRT display

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Virginia Tech


Current interest in three-dimensional (3-D) information displays has focused on the use of field-sequential CRT techniques to present binocular stereoscopic images. Although it is widely believed that stereopsis provides a potent depth information cue, numerous monocular cues exist which may augment, detract from, or even supplant stereopsis. Unfortunately, few guidelines or well-controlled analyses on the use of depth cues are available to direct engineering implementations of stereoscopic display systems.

This dissertation describes three experiments using 3-D images presented on a Tektronix SGS 620 field-sequential stereoscopic CRT (19-inch diagonal, 120-Hz field rate, passive glasses). In the first experiment, 10 participants with normal vision judged the relative apparent depth ordering of three simple geometric figures (planar circle, square, and triangle). Four sources of depth information (cue types) were factorially combined to construct exemplary images of planar figures in apparent depth: Relative Size (angular subtense decreased with increasing apparent depth); Disparity (binocular disparity varied from crossed to uncrossed with increasing apparent depth); Interposition (closer figures partially occluded ones farther away in apparent depth); and Luminance (luminance decreased with increasing apparent depth). The three monocular cues (Interposition, Size, and Luminance) produced significantly faster depth judgments when used alone; however, when used in combination, Interposition dominated the response time data trends. Although the Disparity cue received moderately high "perceived effectiveness" ratings, response time measures indicated that it played a minor role in the relative depth judgment task.

The second experiment was conducted to investigate further the subjective value of the various depth cues. Participants rated subjective image quality (quality of depth) rather than making rapid relative depth judgements. As anticipated, the most satisfactory ratings of depth were made for display images which included stereoscopic depth (Disparity), with the very highest ratings given to display images which included all four depth cues. The results of these first two experiments illustrated a task-demand (objective vs. subjective) discrepancy in the utility of stereoscopic depth cues.

The third experiment extended the initial work to include more geometrically complex stimuli in visual search and cursor positioning tasks. In these task environments, stereoscopic disparity and monocular depth cues had an interactive effect on improving visual search times and reducing cursor positioning errors on the depth axis, with the best performance associated with the presence of all depth cues. The complementary nature of these effects was attenuated when depth cue salience was elevated to suprathreshold levels.

Based on the results of this research, recommendations are presented for the display of depth information with the stereoscopic CRT. The importance of this research is underscored by the fact that while technological advances have been made in the field of stereoscopic display, very few usability data exist either from laboratory testing or from the implementation of such displays in operational systems. This research provides information to complete cost/performance benefit analyses for 3-D display designs which could in turn significantly impact industry acceptance of the field-sequential stereoscopic CRT.