Obtaining reliable estimates of the time-to-contact (TTC) in a three-dimensional (3D) parabolic trajectory is still an open issue. A direct analysis of the optic flow cannot make accurate predictions for gravitationally accelerated objects. Alternatively, resorting to prior knowledge of gravity and size can provide accurate estimates of TTC in parabolic head-on trajectories, but its generalization depends on the specific geometry of the trajectory and particular moments. The aim of this work is to explore the preferred viewing windows to estimate TTC and how the available visual information affects these estimations. We designed a task in which participants, wearing an head-mounted display (HMD), had to time the moment a ball in a parabolic path returned at eye level. We used five trajectories for which accurate temporal predictions were available at different points of flight time. Our results show that our observers can predict both the trajectory of the ball and TTC based on the available visual information and previous experience with the task. However, the times at which our observers chose to gather the visual evidence did not match those in which visual information provided accurate TTC. Instead, they looked at the ball at relatively fixed temporal windows depending on the trajectory but not of TTC
Our data indicate that the observers are able to use a predictive strategy to estimate both the position of the ball in flight and the remaining flight time using the visual information available during short visibility windows. To estimate the remaining TTC from a midflight visibility window, our observers preferred to use fixed temporal windows that might help them to interpret visual information combined with their previous experience.