At the AIC 2011 meeting, Midori Tanaka presented the paper Color naming experiment using 2D and 3D rendered samplesColor naming experiment using 2D and 3D rendered samples she wrote with Shoji Tominaga and Takahiko Horiuchi, all of Chiba University.
Usually in color naming experiments the observer is shown color swatches and asked to provide a color term for each swatch. In Tanaka's psychophysics experiments the observers were shown a single color swatch and then asked to assign to it one of the 15 basic Japanese color terms (the 11 universal plus turquoise, chartreuse, gold, and silver).
While usually the color swatch is completely uniform, i.e., the pixels all have the same identical RGB values, Tanaka chose a different rendering in each experiment. They were 2D (i.e., identical RGB values), 3D rendering with low contrast shading, 3D with high contrast shading, and 3D with shading and specular reflection:
An unexpected result is that observer determine the color term significantly faster with the 3D sample than with the 2D sample. Unfortunately this does not lead to a methodology for faster color naming. Indeed, the main result of the paper is that the number of bright color terms decreases in the case of 3D samples, so the data from 3D samples cannot be compared directly with data from 2D samples.
Not unexpected is that orange and brown change in opposite directions from 2D to 3D. This paper is clearly the beginning of research to much better understand the mechanisms of color naming in the human visual system.
Midori Tanaka will graduate from her master course next March and she still has to decide whether to pursue a Ph.D. or find employment in industry. If you can provide her with an active role in your organization, please let her know.