There has been no direct examination of stereoscopic depth perception at very large observation distances and depths. We measured perceptions of depth magnitude at distances where it is frequently reported without evidence that stereopsis is non-functional. We adapted methods pioneered at distances up to 9 m by R. S. Allison, B. J. Gillam, and E. Vecellio (2009) for use in a 381-m-long railway tunnel. Pairs of Light Emitting Diode (LED) targets were presented either in complete darkness or with the environment lit as far as the nearest LED (the observation distance). We found that binocular, but not monocular, estimates of the depth between pairs of LEDs increased with their physical depths up to the maximum depth separation tested (248 m). Binocular estimates of depth were much larger with a lit foreground than in darkness and increased as the observation distance increased from 20 to 40 m, indicating that binocular disparity can be scaled for much larger distances than previously realized. Since these observation distances were well beyond the range of vertical disparity and oculomotor cues, this scaling must rely on perspective cues. We also ran control experiments at smaller distances, which showed that estimates of depth and distance correlate poorly and that our metric estimation method gives similar results to a comparison method under the same conditions.
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Palmisano, S. A., Gillam, B., Govan, D., Allison, R. S. & Harris, J. (2010). Stereoscopic perception of real depths at large distances. Journal of Vision, 10 (6), 1-16.