Journal of Digital Imaging

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 12–18 | Cite as

The Effect of Ambient Illumination on Handheld Display Image Quality

  • Peter Liu
  • Fahad Zafar
  • Aldo BadanoEmail author


Handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets are becoming useful in the medical field, as they allow physicians, radiologists, and researchers to analyze images with the benefit of mobile accessibility. However, for handheld devices to be effective, the display must be able to perform well in a wide range of ambient illumination conditions. We conducted visual experiments to quantify user performance for testing the image quality of two current-generation devices in different ambient illumination conditions while measuring ambient light levels with a real-time illuminance meter. We found and quantified that due to the high reflectivity of handheld devices, performance deteriorates as the user moves from dark areas into environments of greater ambient illumination. The quantitative analysis suggests that differences in display reflection coefficients do not affect the low illumination performance of the device but rather the performance at higher levels of illumination.


Clinical image viewing Data display Diagnostic display monitors Diagnostic image quality Digital display Display device Human–computer interaction Human visual system Image display Liquid crystal display (LCD) Medical displays Personal digital assistant (PDA) Visual perception 



The authors acknowledge support from the Research Participation Program administered by ORISE through an interagency agreement between DOE and FDA. The mention of commercial products herein is not to be construed as either an actual or implied endorsement of such products by the Department of Health and Human Services. This is a contribution of the Food and Drug Administration and is not subject to copyright. We thank the volunteers who participated in the experiments.


  1. 1.
    Badano A, Sharma D, Guarnieri G, Ramponi G, Albani L: Effect of case variability on the measurement of reader performance when comparing medical display technologies: application to the study of high-luminance- range displays. Proc SID 2009Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Flynn M, Badano A: Image quality degradation by light scattering in display devices. J Digit Imaging 12:50–59, 1999PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Toomey R: Handheld devices for radiologists: as good as monitors. Imaging Med 2010Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Xu X, Kerofsky L: Improving content visibility for high-ambient-illumination viewable display and energy- saving display. JSID 19, 2011Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Zafar F, Choi M, Wang J, Liu P, Badano A: Visual methods for determining ambient illumination conditions when viewing medical images in mobile display devices. J SID 2011Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Lin P-H, Kuo W-H: Image quality of a mobile display under different illuminations. Percept Mot Skills 113:215–228, 2011PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Badano A: Predicting perceived image quality: a critique of Lin and Kuo. Percept Mot Skills 114:236–238, 2012PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Vogel R, Saha A, Chakrabarti K, Badano A: Evaluation of high-resolution and mobile display systems for digital radiology in dark and bright environments using human and computational observers. J SID 15(6):357–365, 2007Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Samei E, Chakraborty ABAD, Compton K, Cornelius C, Corrigan K, Flynn M, Hemminger B, Hangiandreou N, Johnson J, Moxley M, Pavlicek W, Roehrig H, Rutz L, Shepard J, Uzenoff R, Willis JWJC: Assessment of display performance for medical imaging systems, Report of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) Task Group 18. Medical Physics Publishing, Madison, WI, 2005. AAPM On-Line Report No. 03Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Badano A: Effect of slow display on detectability when browsing large image datasets. J SID 17/11Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Imaging and Applied Mathematics, Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories, Center for Devices and Radiological HealthFDASilver SpringUSA
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of Maryland Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations