Thermal Spread Functions (TSF): Physics-Guided Material Classification

Aniket Dashpute · Vishwanath Saragadam · Emma Alexander · Florian Willomitzer · Aggelos Katsaggelos · Ashok Veeraraghavan · Oliver Cossairt

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 156


Robust and non-destructive material classification is a challenging but crucial first-step in numerous vision applications. We propose a physics-guided material classification framework that relies on thermal properties of the object. Our key observation is that the rate of heating and cooling of an object depends on the unique intrinsic properties of the material, namely the emissivity and diffusivity. We leverage this observation by gently heating the objects in the scene with a low-power laser for a fixed duration and then turning it off, while a thermal camera captures measurements during the heating and cooling process. We then take this spatial and temporal “thermal spread function” (TSF) to solve an inverse heat equation using the finite-differences approach, resulting in a spatially varying estimate of diffusivity and emissivity. These tuples are then used to train a classifier that produces a fine-grained material label at each spatial pixel. Our approach is extremely simple requiring only a small light source (low power laser) and a thermal camera, and produces robust classification results with 86% accuracy over 16 classes

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