A Study in Gloss

Secondment review by Sina Mehraeen

One’s ideas must be as broad as Nature if they are to interpret Nature
                                                                                     ― Arthur Conan Doyle

Here are the chronicles of my adventures during my secondment at the Department of Psychology, University of Southampton, under the supervision of Prof. Wendy Adams and Prof. Marc Ernst.

The Objectives of the trip:

  1. Gain an understanding of the interaction between illumination and material perception, including analysis of spherical high dynamic range natural illumination environments.
  2. Gain experience of working in a Psychology department in another EU country.

To begin at the beginning, I was excited to work with Wendy and to be exposed to the cool research she does on material perception, illumination environments and rendering virtual objects.  I had also never been to the UK, and was eager to get a glimpse of that part of the world.

The plan was twofold; first, I would conduct a pilot study on the interaction between illumination and gloss and how gloss might affect the way we manipulate a physical object. At the same time, I would try to learn as much as possible on rendering virtual objects in natural illumination environments and learn the statistics involved.

Sample HDR illumination environment sourced from the Southampton-York Natural Scenes (SYNS) Dataset. The SYNS dataset is a collection of high definition images (and their relevant metadata) from around 100 rural and urban locations.

After a short trip to a metal supermarket, we got some nice aluminum box pipes which we would use as our physical stimuli. The main question we were seeking to address with these physical objects is whether their glossiness affects the way people handle them. This is in line with previous studies looking at the relationship between gloss and touch (Kerrigan, Adams, & Graf, 2010 ; Adams, Kerrigan & Graf, 2016).

Aluminum box pipe

Once the objects were cleaned and nicely polished, we started testing out a suitable experimental setup. This proved more challenging than expected due to the unpredictable nature of natural lighting. In order to get the desired outcome, we really had to control the angle and intensity of illumination so using natural lighting was out of the question. We also tested various coatings to get the objects to be as glossy as possible. Currently, we have made some tweaks to the set up and we are in the process of data collection; so more info coming soon.

On the side and as a secondary objective, I began learning the basics of Blender to generate virtual objects and to import them as .obj files into Octane Render. Octane is fast rendering engine which allows for easy manipulation of minute elements which make up a scene, e.g. material qualities an object might possess and how those certain qualities (e.g. surface reflectance) interact with light. Once we had set those parameters, we placed them in a natural illumination environment and got something that looked like this:

A virtual object placed in a natural illumination environment

To conclude, I’d like to thank Wendy, Marc and Erich for their continuous support during my stay and also Davide and Paul for helping me with the setup. I’d also like to say a big thanks to everyone I had the good fortune of meeting at the Department of Psychology in Soton; for showing me around town and volunteering to participate in the experiment. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

Cheerio!

Secondment at the Science and Media Museum

Secondment at the Science and Media Museum

By Ellen De Korte

It has been four weeks since I started my museum secondment at the National Science and Media Museum and there are three more weeks to go until the Bradford Science Festival. I am busy preparing all text and materials for my study. However, the most exciting bit is that I am now testing objects that I have collected from charity shops and colleagues. This resulted in interesting responses. Also, the visitors are happy to try the task that is part of my activity. The next stage is to get everything ready, test the entire activity and pilot data collection.

How do I feel about public engagement? I found that it is one thing to learn to do science and an entirely different thing to communicate about it. Explainers in the museum seem to do it with ease. However, when I tried to do it myself, I found that it is a lot harder than it looks. For example, you have to learn how to get people interested in what you are doing. Moreover, you need to constantly switch gears, because you encounter people from different backgrounds.

Nevertheless, if you manage to draw people in and interact with them, it is a rewarding experience. People are willing to listen and take a little piece of information with them. Also, the skills you learn when doing science communication can be transferred to communicating your work to a specialist audience. Communication to a non-specialist audience teaches you how to quickly pitch and sell your work in simple wording. The pitching and selling skills are very useful for presentations, for example at a conference, too, because this also requires you to shortly pitch your work to people passing by.

All in all, my museum secondment is an entirely different experience. However, it is also an interesting challenge, from which I will have learnt a lot at the end.

DyViTo First Advanced Training Course

The first in a series of advanced DyViTo training courses was held from 11-14 March in the beautiful Schloss Rauischholzhausen near Marburg, Germany.

Schloss Rauischholzhausen

The goal of these workshops is to train ESRs and to allow them to network with experts in the field as well as build relationships with other DyViTo members and partners. The workshop included 15 high level talks covering the following subjects under the umbrella of material perception:

  • multisensory integration
  • haptics
  • machine learning
  • perception of color and light
  • computer generated graphics
  • Bayesian modeling
  • analysis of industrial coatings
  • neural mechanisms and brain imaging
Keynote presentation by Prof. Roberta Klatzky on Perception and Rendering of Material Properties

Poster Presentations

Evening poster sessions gave ESRs and external attendees the opportunity to share what they have been working on over the past few months and to develop their communicative skills.  

Networking skills

To the credit of organizers, less formal evening sessions were included so as to allow for a more casual flow of ideas and an opportunity to network.  

Soft skills networking session

A study of sound

The event also included an immersive acoustic experience as all workshop guests and speakers were invited to experiment with a range of musical and audio equipment.

A light show during the acoustic experience workshop

Guided tour of Landgrafenschloss Marburg (Landgrave Palace)

On Day 3, guests were invited to attend a tour of Landgrave Palace which dates back to the 11th century. Today the palace functions as a museum open to the general public.

Photo taken by Hydro sourced from Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

All in all, the workshop was a major success thanks to all the speakers and the efforts of Jacob Cheesman and Müge Cavdan who organized everything.

Blog author: Sina Mehraeen

Spotlight – University of Giessen

Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU) is one of the oldest universities in the German-speaking part of Europe. JLU, one of the largest research universities in the State of Hessen, was founded in 1607.The university is named after Justus von Liebig who is the inventor of artificial fertilizer, the founder of agricultural chemistry, and the most famous faculty member. JLU attracts students with its state-of art facilities and long history. Some of the well-known professors are physician Georg Haas, theologian Adolf von Harnack, gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, and physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen.

Photograph of Psychology and Sports Science Faculty- JLU Giessen (Photo credit JLU Giessen)

Department of General Psychology represent DyVito Project with two sub-projects. Our department comprises of more than sixty researchers and four different research team in perception (action and perception, brain and action, material perception, and color perception). You can find more information about our research group here and our publications from 2003 to 2018 here.

The DyVito Project at JLU:  

Project 1: perception of high gloss materials

Supervisor, Professor Roland Fleming, Professor Karl Gegenfurtner, early stage researcher Jacob Cheeseman

Project 2: visuo-haptic perception of softness

Supervisor, Dr. Katja Doerschner, Professor Knut Drewing, early stage researcher Müge Cavdan

Blog author: Müge Cavdan