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The retinex theory of color constancy was developed by Edwin H. Land, the theory to explain it. The word "retinex" is a portmanteau formed from "retina" and "cortex", suggesting that both the eye and the brain are involved in the processing.

The effect can be experimentally demonstrated as follows. A display called a "Mondrian" (after Piet Mondrian whose paintings are similar) consisting of numerous colored patches is shown to a person. The display is illuminated by three white lights, one projected through a red filter, one projected through a green filter, and one projected through a blue filter. The person is asked to adjust the intensity of the lights so that a particular patch in the display appears white. The experimenter then measures the intensities of red, green, and blue light reflected from this white-appearing patch. Then the experimenter asks the person to identify the color of a neighboring patch, which, for example, appears green. Then the experimenter adjusts the lights so that the intensities of red, blue, and green light reflected from the green patch are the same as were originally measured from the white patch. The person shows color constancy in that the green patch continues to appear green, the white patch continues to appear white, and all the remaining patches continue to have their original colors.

Color constancy is a desirable feature of computer vision, and many algorithms have been developed for this purpose. These include several retinex algorithms.[1] These algorithms receive as input the red/green/blue values of each pixel of the image and attempt to estimate the reflectances of each point. One such algorithm operates as follows: the maximal red value rmax of all pixels is determined, and also the maximal green value gmax and the maximal blue value bmax. Assuming that the scene contains objects which reflect all red light, and (other) objects which reflect all green light and still others which reflect all blue light, one can then deduce that the illuminating light source is described by (rmax, gmax, bmax). For each pixel with values (r, g, b) its reflectance is estimated as (r/rmax, g/gmax, b/bmax). The original retinex algorithm proposed by Land and McCann uses a localized version of this principle.[2][3]

Although retinex models are still widely used in computer vision, they have been shown not to accurately model human color perception.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. Jean-Michel Morel, Ana B. Petro and Catalina Sbert (2009) Fast implementation of color constancy algorithms. Proc. SPIE, Vol. 7241, 724106
  2. Edoardo Provenzi, Luca De Carli, Alessandro Rizzi, Daniele Marini (2005) Mathematical definition and analysis of the Retinex algorithm. JOSA A, Vol. 22, Issue 12, pages 2613-2621.
  3. Marcelo Bertalmío, Vicent Caselles, Edoardo Provenzi (2009) Issues About Retinex Theory and Contrast Enhancement. IJCV, Vol. 83, pages 101–119.
  4. Hurlbert, A.C.; Wolf, K. The contribution of local and global cone-contrasts to colour appearance: a Retinex-like model. In: Proceedings of the SPIE 2002, San Jose, CA

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