When an observer moves in a 3D environment continuous geometrical distortions lead to deformations on the retinal images. However, the brain can make perfect sense of these unstable images, giving rise to a conscious experience of a stable world. This puzzling phenomenon is the main focus of my research. The problem in which I am interested is how the visual system interprets moving features. In particular, what is the specific three-dimensional shape that the brain recovers from moving images? And what is the specific three-dimensional motion?

The basic approach to solve this problem is to mathematically describe the set of retinal velocities produced by the moving images, called optic flow, and than address the properties of the optic flow that may be relevant to the visual system for deriving 3D properties from 2D projections.

My approach to this problem can be characterized by two main hypotheses: 1) the visual system relies on properties of the optic flow that are not necessarily sufficient for deriving the projected object and its 3D motion, 2) the derivation of the 3D structure and motion is based primarily on a heuristic analysis of the optic flow. I have provided evidence for these hypotheses by studying human performance in a variety of perceptual tasks that involved judgments of 3D structure and 3D motion.

These empirical outcomes can be predicted by a model that derives local orientation of 3D surfaces and their 3D motion from a property of the optic flow called deformation. Since this property in inherently ambiguous, the model does not, in general, derive the correct solution. Nevertheless, it can still predict the results presented so far in the literature, challenging the traditional hypothesis that 3D structure and motion are recovered by means of a veridical mathematical analysis of the optic flow.

Domini, F. & Caudek, C. (1999). Perceiving surface slant from deformation of optic flow. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 426-444.

Domini, F. & Braunstein, M.L. (1998). Recovery of 3D structure from motion that is neither Euclidean nor affine. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 1273-1295.

Domini, F., Caudek, C. & Profitt, D.R. (1997). Misperceptions of angular velocities influence the perception of rigidity in the Kinetic Depth Effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 23, 1111-1129.