Abstract

The computational problem underlying color vision is to recover the invariant surface-spectral-reflectance properties of an object. Lightness algorithms, which recover an approximation to surface reflectance in independent wavelength channels, have been proposed as one method to compute color. This paper clarifies and formalizes the lightness problem by proposing a new formulation of the intensity equation on which lightness algorithms are based and by identifying and discussing two basic subproblems of lightness and color computation: spatial decomposition and spectral normalization of the intensity signal. Several lightness algorithms are reviewed, and a new extension (the multiple-scales algorithm) of one of them is proposed. The main computational result is that each of the lightness algorithms may be derived from a single mathematical formula, under different conditions, which, in turn, imply limitations for the implementation of lightness algorithms by man or machine. In particular, the algorithms share certain limitations on their implementation that follow from the physical constraints imposed on the statement of the problem and the boundary conditions applied in its solution.

© 1986 Optical Society of America

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