Advanced Underwater Image Restoration in Complex Illumination Conditions

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Yifan Song, Mengkun She, Kevin Köser


Underwater image restoration has been a challenging problem for decades since the advent of underwater photography. Most solutions focus on shallow water scenarios, where the scene is uniformly illuminated by the sunlight. However, the vast majority of uncharted underwater terrain is located beyond 200 meters depth where natural light is scarce and artificial illumination is needed. In such cases, light sources co-moving with the camera, dynamically change the scene appearance, which make shallow water restoration methods inadequate. In particular for multi-light source systems (composed of dozens of LEDs nowadays), calibrating each light is time-consuming, error-prone and tedious, and we observe that only the integrated illumination within the viewing volume of the camera is critical, rather than the individual light sources. The key idea of this paper is therefore to exploit the appearance changes of objects or the seafloor, when traversing the viewing frustum of the camera. Through new constraints assuming Lambertian surfaces, corresponding image pixels constrain the light field in front of the camera, and for each voxel a signal factor and a backscatter value are stored in a volumetric grid that can be used for very efficient image restoration of camera-light platforms, which facilitates consistently texturing large 3D models and maps that would otherwise be dominated by lighting and medium artifacts. To validate the effectiveness of our approach, we conducted extensive experiments on simulated and real-world datasets. The results of these experiments demonstrate the robustness of our approach in restoring the true albedo of objects, while mitigating the influence of lighting and medium effects. Furthermore, we demonstrate our approach can be readily extended to other scenarios, including in-air imaging with artificial illumination or other similar cases.

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