Refraction corrected calibration for aquatic locomotion research: application of Snell's law improves spatial accuracy

S. Henrion, C.W. Spoor, R.P.M. Pieters, U.K. Müller, J.L. van Leeuwen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Images of underwater objects are distorted by refraction at the water–glass–air interfaces and these distortions can lead to substantial errors when reconstructing the objects' position and shape. So far, aquatic locomotion studies have minimized refraction in their experimental setups and used the direct linear transform algorithm (DLT) to reconstruct position information, which does not model refraction explicitly. Here we present a refraction corrected ray-tracing algorithm (RCRT) that reconstructs position information using Snell's law. We validated this reconstruction by calculating 3D reconstruction error—the difference between actual and reconstructed position of a marker. We found that reconstruction error is small (typically less than 1%). Compared with the DLT algorithm, the RCRT has overall lower reconstruction errors, especially outside the calibration volume, and errors are essentially insensitive to camera position and orientation and the number and position of the calibration points. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the RCRT, we tracked an anatomical marker on a seahorse recorded with four cameras to reconstruct the swimming trajectory for six different camera configurations. The RCRT algorithm is accurate and robust and it allows cameras to be oriented at large angles of incidence and facilitates the development of accurate tracking algorithms to quantify aquatic manoeuvers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number046009
Number of pages12
JournalBioinspiration & biomimetics
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • 3D reconstruction
  • biomechanics
  • DLT
  • image analysis
  • refraction calibration
  • seahorse


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