Retrographic sensing for the measurement of surface texture and shape

M.K. Johnson and E.H. Adelson

Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, 2009



We describe a novel device that can be used as a 2.5D “scanner” for acquiring surface texture and shape. The device consists of a slab of clear elastomer covered with a reflective skin. When an object presses on the skin, the skin distorts to take on the shape of the object’s surface. When viewed from behind (through the elastomer slab), the skin appears as a relief replica of the surface. A camera records an image of this relief, using illumination from red, green, and blue light sources at three different positions. A photometric stereo algorithm that is tailored to the device is then used to reconstruct the surface. There is no problem dealing with transparent or specular materials because the skin supplies its own BRDF. Complete information is recorded in a single frame; therefore we can record video of the changing deformation of the skin, and then generate an animation of the changing surface. Our sensor has no moving parts (other than the elastomer slab), uses inexpensive materials, and can be made into a portable device that can be used “in the field” to record surface shape and texture.

This technology is patent pending.



More information

The retrographic sensor won a “Best Demo” award at CVPR 2009. An newer version of the system, called GelSight, was presented at SIGGRAPH 2009 Emerging Technologies. Please see the GelSight page for videos, FAQ and instructions for making the sensor.



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0739255. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.