Imported: 12 Feb '17 | Published: 14 Jul '15

USPTO - Utility Patents

A novel technique for unsupervised feature selection is disclosed. The disclosed methods include automatically selecting a subset of a feature of an image. Additionally, the selection of the subset of features may be incorporated with a congealing algorithm, such as a least-square-based congealing algorithm. By selecting a subset of the feature representation of an image, redundant and/or irrelevant features may be reduced or removed, and the efficiency and accuracy of least-square-based congealing may be improved.

This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 13/346,479 entitled “Image Congealing Via Efficient Feature Selection,” filed on Jan. 9, 2012, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

This invention was made with Government support under grant number 2009-SQ-B9-K013 awarded by the National Institute of Justice. The Government has certain rights in the invention.

The present disclosure relates generally to image congealing, and more particularly, to a feature selection method for image congealing.

Group-wise image alignment, also known as “congealing”, is a process of jointly estimating warping parameters for all images in an ensemble. There are many applications of image congealing. During the learning phase of an object detector, the position of the object (e.g., a face, pedestrian, or car) for training images can be automatically provided by congealing, rather than by being labeled manually. Congealing can improve appearance-based face recognition performance. For example, automatic labeling of facial landmarks can be enabled by semi-supervised congealing, which can also potentially be used to discover the non-rigid shape deformation of a real-world object.

The goal of congealing is to estimate the warping parameters by iteratively minimizing a distance metric computed using the feature presentation of each image. In particular, there are three key elements to image congealing: cost function, optimization method, and feature representation. Certain methods utilize the mutual information as the cost function for optimization, while other methods employ a least-squared distance between image pairs in the ensemble. Regarding the optimization method, the gradient descent and the inverse compositional approach may also be used.

Existing methods may use original image intensities as the feature representation, which has a number of drawbacks. Since such representation usually resides in a high-dimensional space, it imposes a substantial computational burden for optimization, especially with a large image ensemble. Also, because many pixel intensities are redundant due to local proximity to their neighboring pixels, they may hinder the optimization process. To remedy this problem, as shown in FIG. 1, the present techniques include an unsupervised feature selection approach to automatically choose a subset of feature representation and use the subset for image congealing. For example, by using only less than 3% of the original feature representation, both the accuracy and efficiency of congealing may be substantially improved compared to congealing without feature selection. In the illustrated embodiment, an unsupervised feature selection method **10** and congealing algorithm **12** may be applied to a blurred average image **14** to generate an aligned image **16**. Specifically, the unsupervised feature selection method **10** and the congealing algorithm **12** use selected features **18**, which are a subset of the total feature representation.

In addition to combining feature selection and congealing, the disclosed embodiments also include a novel unsupervised feature selection approach. In other words, the novel unsupervised feature selection may be incorporated with a congealing algorithm (e.g., a least-square-based congealing algorithm). Specifically, a graph having features as the vertices is generated, and the connectivity between the vertices is determined by a maximum information compression index. A simple and fast graph clustering method called power iteration clustering (PIC) is used to partition the graph into subsets and select a representative feature from each subset. As discussed in detail below, the disclosed method has significant advantages in efficiency, especially when the feature dimension is high, while achieving comparable effectiveness in terms of removing feature redundancy. Moreover, the proposed method can be applied to other learning tasks beyond congealing, due to its independence from the objective function and optimization algorithm for the target concept.

There is a long history of group-wise image alignment in computer vision, particularly in the area of medical image analysis. The basic idea of this congealing process is to minimize a cost function by estimating the warping parameters of an ensemble. There are various directions that have been explored to improve the accuracy and efficiency of congealing. In terms of a cost function, some methods utilize a mutual information measurement as an objective function, while other methods use a series of least-squares-based congealing algorithms. In terms of a learning paradigm, there are unsupervised congealing methods, as well as semi-supervised congealing methods. The warping function used to compute pair-wise image distances can be defined as a global affine warp or a sophistical non-rigid wasp. However, it remains unclear what an effective feature representation is in the context of congealing. With only a few exceptions, most existing methods compute the cost function by directly utilizing the original pixel intensities of the image. The congealing algorithm disclosed herein makes a sharp contrast in that it provides a novel feature selection mechanism to effectively choose a subset of the feature representation, which is shown to improve both the accuracy and efficiency of least-squares-based congealing.

The task of feature selection is to remove irrelevant and/or redundant features. Irrelevant features refer to the features that are not informative with respect to the target concept (e.g., class in supervised learning), and redundant features refer to those that are highly correlated to some other features. By removing the irrelevant and redundant features, feature selection helps reduce over fitting and improve efficiency of model learning. It also helps better understand the underlying data-generating mechanism and related physical process patterns.

Feature selection has been well studied in supervised learning. However, relatively little is known about feature selection in unsupervised learning, mainly because the definition of relevance becomes unclear without guidance of class labels. A few approaches have been presented in the literature. These approaches may be categorized into two groups: wrapper and filter. A wrapper method ties feature selection with the main learning task (e.g., classification) and evaluates features by how well they fit the ultimate learning goal. In contrast, a filter method does not rely on the learning algorithm, but rather exploits intrinsic properties of the data structure.

In the first category (e.g., the wrapper method), most unsupervised wrapper techniques use clustering quality or related constructs as feature selection guidance and are customized to a particular clustering algorithm. For example, feature selection may be wrapped around an EM clustering algorithm and both the scatter separability and the maximum likelihood may be measured. Fewer techniques have been found in the second category—the filter type of unsupervised feature selection techniques. Some methods use the Laplacian score to measure features by their power of locality preserving. Other methods use a general feature selection framework evolved from the spectral graph theory and consider the Laplacian score algorithm as a special case of the proposed framework. Another method of feature clustering partitions the features into a number of homogenous subsets according to an information-theory-based similarity measure, and then selects the representative feature for each subset.

For congealing purposes, the disclosed embodiments utilize the filter techniques because clustering may or may not be the ultimate learning objective. Existing filter methods have difficulties with high-dimensional, big datasets, which are common in real-world congealing applications. Therefore, the disclosed techniques include a new filter method, which may be a natural extension of existing congealing algorithms and may be powered by a fast graph clustering approach. The disclosed methods provide a comparable or improved performance of feature selection when independently evaluated on benchmark datasets. When embedded in the congealing algorithm, the advantage of the disclosed feature selection methods becomes clearer: the optimization search space is shrunk by removing redundant features and therefore the computation cost may be reduced by a significant margin.

The Congealing Algorithm

The present embodiments begin with a conventional unsupervised least-squares-based congealing approach. Unsupervised congealing approaches operate on an ensemble of K unaligned images I={I_{i}}_{i=1}^{K}, each with an unknown warping parameter p_{i }that is to be estimated. The parameters p_{i }can be a simple 6-dimensional affine warping parameter, or the coefficient parameter of a shape subspace. The collection of all unknown parameters is denoted with P=[p_{1}, . . . , p_{K}]. The goal of congealing is to estimate P by minimizing a cost function defined on the entire ensemble:

The total cost is the summation of the cost of each image ε_{i}(p_{i})

where ƒ(I, p) is a d-dimensional feature representation of image I evaluated a p. Hence, ε(p_{i}) equals the summation of the pairwise feature difference between I_{i }and all the other images in the ensemble.

The feature representation may be defined as:

ƒ(*I,p*)*I*(*W*(*x;p*)), (3)

where W(x; p) is a warping function that takes as input x, which is a collection of all d pixel coordinates within the common rectangle region, and outputs the corresponding pixel coordinates in the coordinate space of image I. Given this warping function, I (W(x; p)) denotes the corresponding warped image feature obtained by bilinear interpolation of the image I using the warped coordinates W (x; p). Since the total cost ε(P) is difficult to optimize directly, the individual cost ε_{i}(P_{i}) for each I_{i }may be iteratively minimized, given an initial estimation of the warping parameters P_{i}^{(0)}. The well-known inverse warping technique is utilized, and after taking the first order Taylor expansion, Equation (2) can be simplified to:

The least-square solution of Equation (4) can be obtained by setting the partial derivative of Equation (4) with respect to Δp_{i }equal to zero. We have:

The calculated Δp_{i }is used to update the current warping parameter, p_{i}^{(t)}:

*p*_{i}^{(t+1)}*←p*_{i}^{(t)}*+Δp*_{i}.

Similar updating is conducted for the warping parameters of other images in the ensemble, and then the algorithm proceeds to the next iteration. This process terminates when the difference of ε(P), which is computed using Equation 1, between consecutive iterations is less than a pre-defined threshold.

Unsupervised Feature Selection

The disclosed feature selection approach is designed to remove feature redundancy. More specifically, certain embodiments include an unsupervised feature selection algorithm that is suitable for various learning tasks with different target concepts. As a result, there is not a unified definition of feature relevance.

For example, let Y=[y_{1}, y_{2}, . . . , y_{d}] denote a n-by-d data matrix, where rows are instances and columns are features. The vector y_{j }includes the jth feature for all the instances. A feature similarity measure may be based on information theory termed the maximum information compression index, which possesses several desirable properties for feature redundancy reduction, such as sensitivity to scaling and invariance to rotation. The feature similarity measure may be defined as follows:

Where τ is the correlation coefficient,

with V(•) being the variance of a random variable and C(•,•) being the covariance between two variables. The value of λ ranges between 0 and 0.5(V(y_{j})+V(y_{l})). It is minimized when two features y_{j }and y_{l }are linearly dependent and increases as the dependency diminishes. Based on the measure λ for each pair of features, a heuristic algorithm is employed to search the feature space. The heuristic algorithm finds the k nearest neighbors of each feature. Thereafter, the feature with the most compact neighborhood is selected and its neighbors are discarded. The process is repeated until all features are either selected or discarded. The heuristic search algorithm has computational complexity similar to that of a kNN algorithm, which could be slow when the feature dimension is high.

Spectral graph theory may also be used in machine learning applications. For example, spectral clustering algorithms could be used to take place of the heuristic search algorithm. More specifically, for a graph A with features as vertices, the connectivity between vertices can be defined as a function of the measure λ in Equation (8). That is:

*a*_{jl}=exp(−λ(*y*_{j}*,y*_{l})^{2}/(2σ^{2})), *j,l=*1, . . . ,*d,* (9)

where σ is a scaling parameter that controls the kernel width. The degree matrix associated with A, denoted by D, is a diagonal matrix with the diagonal entries equal to the row sums of A. A normalized random-walk Laplacian matrix L is defined as L=Δ−D^{−1 }A, where Δ is the identity matrix. The intrinsic clustering structure is often revealed by representing the data in the basis composed of the smallest eigenvectors of L (but not the very smallest one). The very smallest eigenvector is a constant vector that doesn't have discriminative power.

For another matrix defined as W=D^{−1 }A, the largest eigenvector of W is the smallest eigenvector of L. A well-known method for computing the largest eigenvector of a matrix is power iteration (PI), which randomly initializes a d-dimensional vector v^{(0) }and iteratively updates the vector by multiplying it with W:

ν^{(t)}*=γWv*^{(t−1)}*, t=*1,2, . . . , (10)

where γ is a normalizing constant to keep υ^{(t) }numerically stable. Regarding the largest eigenvector of W, the elements of υ^{(t) }converge to local centers corresponding to the clusters in the data before they converge to the constant value. Therefore, the largest eigenvector υ^{(t)}, which is discarded in spectral clustering algorithms, becomes a useful tool for clustering. The algorithm, known as power iteration clustering (PIC), is very efficient because it only involves iterative matrix-vector multiplications, and clustering the one-dimensional embedding of the original data is a relatively easy task.

As will be appreciated, power iteration clustering may be used to partition the graph with data instances as vertices. However, the present embodiments are directed towards feature clustering and power iteration clustering applied to a graph built on features. Once the embedding vector υ^{(t) }is derived, various clustering algorithms can be applied to group the features. To reduce computational cost introduced by the clustering algorithm, a fast k-means algorithm may be used. Furthermore, Dirichlet process mixture models could be used if the number of clusters, i.e., the number of selected features, remains unknown and is considered a model parameter to be estimated as well.

In certain embodiments, the power iteration clustering algorithm may have additional enhancements to increase algorithm stability. For example, power iteration clustering does not work for the following matrix:

As will be appreciated, initializing ν^{(0) }with the degree vector u=[u_{1}, u_{2}, . . . , u_{d},]^{T }can accelerate local convergence where

However, for a matrix like Equation (11), the degree vector is a constant vector and will remain constant during the matrix-vector multiplication process. To address this issue, as well as to assure fast convergence, a small perturbation may be added to the initial vector, i.e.,

ν_{j}^{0}*=u*_{j}+ε_{j}*, j=*1, . . . ,*d,* (12)

where ε_{j }is a small random number, e.g., uniformly distributed in the interval (0, 1e^{−2}/d). Then) ν^{(0) }is normalized to sum one. Additionally, the diagonal elements of A may be set to one, as opposed to zero, which may provide better numerical stability.

The overall procedure of the disclosed unsupervised feature selection algorithm may be summarized as follows. The input of the algorithm may be a data matrix Y=[y_{1}, y_{2}, . . . , y_{d}] and, optionally, a number of features to be selected, k. Next, the similarity between every pair of features is calculated using Equations (8) and (9) above, and the graph A is generated. The matrix W may then be calculated by row normalizing A. Then, υ^{(0) }is initialized with Equation (12), as discussed above. The embedding vector υ^{(t) }is found with iterative matrix-vector multiplications using Equation (10). The elements of the vector υ^{(t) }are then grouped, each element corresponding to one feature, with an efficient clustering algorithm, e.g., the fast k-means. Subsequently, for each cluster, the feature that is closest to the cluster center is found. For example, let Ω=Ø and assume each feature's index is j, where Ω=Ω∪{j}. Thereafter, the disclosed unsupervised feature selection algorithm will output the indices of the selected features, Ω.

Congealing with Feature Selection

The unsupervised feature selection method described above may further be incorporated into the unsupervised congealing framework also described above. For example, given the initial warping parameter P^{(0)}, the basic unsupervised least-square-based congealing algorithm may proceed with the following iterative steps: 1) computing the warping parameter update Δp_{i }for each image, and 2) updating the current warping parameter for each image. The presently disclosed algorithm follows these same steps, except the present feature representation is only a subset of the original presentation. Specifically, the present feature representation is defined as:

ƒ(*I,p*)*I*(*W*(*x*(Ω);*p*)), (13)

where Ω is the output of the unsupervised feature selection method describe above, and is a k-dimensional vector containing the indices of selected features.

There are several aspects regarding this enhanced congealing algorithm. First, although being similar to the case of original representations, the calculation of b_{j }and C_{j }is more efficient because only the feature elements with indices included in Ω need to be computed. Second, the unsupervised feature selection is conducted at every iteration, because, as the alignment for all images changes at each iteration, the corresponding visual features also change, which suggests that a distinctive subset of features might be useful at different stages of the entire iterations. Third, the same iteration termination condition as the basic congealing algorithm is utilized. That is, the image difference (see Equation (1)) is evaluated using the original feature representation, which may be appropriate because different feature selections are conducted at consecutive iterations. Finally, the disclosed congealing algorithm is not limited to the feature representation in Equation (13), which is an algorithmic choice given the original intensity feature in Equation (3). Indeed, the disclosed feature selection method is applicable to other feature types, such as regional histograms.

As will be appreciated, unsupervised least-square-based congealing may have a computational complexity O(mK^{2}d), where m is the dimension of the warping parameter and d is the dimension of the feature representation. Given that the efficiency of congealing depends linearly on the feature dimension, the disclosed algorithm has potential to improve efficiency by working on a much lower feature dimension k, where k<<d. This improved efficiency is discussed in further detail below.

Experimental Data

The proposed feature selection algorithm was compared to existing, state-of-the-art methods. Additionally, the unsupervised congealing algorithm was evaluated with the feature selection. In the following experiments, all algorithms were run single threaded on a conventional workstation.

Evaluation of Feature Selection Performance

An empirical study of the proposed feature selection algorithm was conducted on several University of California, Irvine (UCI) machine learning benchmark data sets. The results of this empirical study are provided in the table shown in FIG. 2. Specifically, six UCI data sets **40** were manipulated using the proposed feature selection algorithm. The study utilized a supervised approach to evaluate the quality of selected feature subsets **42**. Additionally, ground truth of class labels **44** were inaccessible during the feature selection process and were only used to evaluate classification accuracy. The classifier used was a simple but efficient linear classifier, which does not have parameter-tuning issues and was used for results evaluations in at least one supervised feature selection challenge.

The performance was evaluated at a different number of selected features. Each dataset, with only the selected features, was randomly split into halves: one half for training and the other half for testing. Classification accuracy was measured by Area Under Curve (AUC) and was averaged over 100 random splits. If the data includes M>2 classes, the multi-class classification problem was converted into M one-against-all binary classification problems and their average AUC is reported.

The presently described experiments compared three unsupervised feature selection algorithms of the filter type. Specifically, the “Mitra” algorithm described in (P. Mitra, S. Member, C. A. Murthy, and S. K. Pal. Unsupervised feature selection using feature similarity. *IEEE T*-*PAMI, *24:301-312, 2002. 2, 3, 5), the “SPEC” algorithm described in C. Antoniak. Mixtures of Dirichlet processes with applications to Bayesian nonparametric problems. *Annals of Statistics, *2: 1152-1174, 1974. 4, and the proposed algorithm were compared. All three algorithms were implemented in non-optimized Matlab™ code. The experiments were run with the default parameter settings in the original code. To make a fair comparison in efficiency, the same code was used to compute the measure λ in Equation (8) for both the Mitra and the proposed algorithm.

FIGS. 3A-3D and **4**A-**4**F illustrate the results of the experiments described above. More specifically, FIGS. 3A-3D illustrate the experimental results in terms of CPU time **60**, and FIGS. 4A-4F illustrate the experimental results in terms of AUC **70**. For example, FIG. 3A includes a first graph **62** that illustrates the performance of the proposed feature selection algorithm, the Mitra algorithm, and the SPEC algorithm with 20% of the original feature dimension. Similarly, FIG. 3B includes a second graph **64** that illustrates the performance with 40% of the original feature dimension, FIG. 3C includes a third graph **66** that illustrates the performance with 60% of the original feature dimension, and FIG. 3D includes a fourth graph **68** that illustrates the performance and 80% of the original feature dimension. The proposed method shows superior efficiency in the comparison of CPU time **60** for feature selection. For example, the proposed method runs less than one minute even for a high dimensional dataset **40**, such as gisette (5000 features). Taking 20% (i.e., graph **62** of FIG. 3A) as example, the CPU times **60** averaged over six datasets **40** are 2192 seconds for SPEC, 200 seconds for Mitra, and 2 seconds for the proposed algorithm discussed above.

Classification accuracy for the feature subset selected by the present algorithm is comparable to, if not better than, that for the other two algorithms (e.g., the Mitra and SPEC algorithms), as shown in FIGS. 4A-4F. For example, FIG. 4A includes a first graph **72** which illustrates the performance of the proposed feature selection algorithm, the Mitra algorithm, and the SPEC algorithm for the semeion dataset **40**. The additional graphs in FIGS. 4B-4F show the performance of the three compared algorithms for other datasets **40**.

Furthermore, FIG. 5 includes a table **80** showing relative AUC increase averaged over size UCI datasets **40** and comparing the proposed algorithm (e.g., AUC_{P}) with the Mitra algorithm (e.g., AUC_{M}). The two algorithms only differ in the feature clustering part. As shown, with power iteration clustering, not only is efficiency improved, but feature selection quality is improved as well.

Referring back to FIG. 4C, madelon (e.g., illustrated in graph **74**) illustrates a special dataset **40** in that among its **500** features, only 20 are real features and all remaining features are distracter features having no predictive power. Since the indices of the real features are unknown, it is suspected that the SPEC algorithm has the real features ranked among the top 20%, and therefore, its AUC keeps almost no change as more features are added in. The other two algorithms (e.g., the Mitra algorithm and the proposed algorithm) aim to remove feature redundancy, and it is likely that they are not able to capture those relevant features when the feature grouping is coarse.

Evaluation of the Congealing Algorithm

Having demonstrated the effectiveness of the proposed feature selection algorithm, the contribution of the proposed feature selection algorithm to image congealing may be considered. In the presently described experiments, 300 images from the Notre Dame (ND1) database were collected. For each image, 33 landmarks (û) were manually labeled to establish a ground truth and to enable a quantitative evaluation for the congealing performance. During initialization, a uniformly distributed random noise ηε[−η_{max},η_{max}] was added to the ground-truth value û_{i, j }as follows:

where ρ_{i }is the eye-to-eye pixel distance of I_{i}, and _{i }for all images ^{(0) }for all images. In practical applications, the initial landmark positions can be obtained from a face detector. A six-parameter affine warp was employed as W(x;p). A 72-by-72 square region was used as the common mean shape in the present experiments, which results in a 5184-dimensional representation for the original feature I(W(x;p)). As similarly mentioned above, the present algorithm was implemented in Matlab™.

The accuracy of the algorithms was evaluated using two criteria: (1) Normalized Root Mean Squared Error (NRMSE) of landmarks defined as the RMSE with respect to the ground truth landmarks divided by the eye-to-eye distance ρ_{i}, and expressed as a percentage; and (2) Sample “Outliers” Fraction (SOF) defined as the number of images, of which the NRMSE exceeds a threshold (e.g., 8%), versus the total number of images. A smaller NRMSE indicates a higher congealing accuracy, and a smaller SOF represents greater robustness. In addition, the efficiency of the algorithms was evaluated by the number of iterations to converge and the CPU time.

By setting η_{max}=10, the first five random initializations for the 300-image ensemble may be generated. For each initialization, various numbers of features (k) were specified for the congealing algorithm to run. The same process was completed for n_{max}=30, which may be an extreme case study, because commercial face detectors may only be capable of achieving η_{max}=15.

FIGS. 6A-6D illustrate the results where each dot and its variance are computed from 5 runs. Specifically, graph **100** (FIG. 6A) and graph **102** (FIG. 6B) illustrate congealing accuracy with various feature dimension k, and graphs **104** (FIG. 6C) and 106 (FIG. 6D) illustrate efficiency with various feature dimension k. As will be appreciated, k=5184 refers to conventional congealing (e.g., congealing without feature selection). From the graphs **100**, **102**, **104**, and **106** shown in FIGS. 6A-6D, a number of observations can be made. For both cases of initialization, there was a large range of selected feature dimensions (e.g., kε[150.150]), from which the proposed algorithm achieved improved accuracy compared to the algorithm without feature selection (k=5184). In other words, the proposed algorithm is not sensitive to k. Additionally, for both initializations, the new congealing converged in fewer iterations and utilized less CPU time, particularly when k decreased. In the optimal case, when η_{max}=10, the proposed algorithm reduced the NRMSE from 4.5% to 3.8%, the SOF from 8.7% to 1.8%, and CPU time from 2349 to 912 seconds by merely using 50/5184, or 0.96%, of the original features. Comparing two cases of initialization, the improvement margin of accuracy by the proposed algorithm in η_{max}=30 was less than that of η_{max}=10. This is partially due to the fact that the larger deviation at the initialization makes it challenging to converge by using a lower-dimensional feature representation. Hence, in certain embodiments, it may be beneficial to have the feature selection algorithm automatically nominate the optimal k at each congealing iteration.

In addition to the quantitative evaluation, the average warped image after congealing converges may be displayed. As will be appreciated, the averaged warped image may be expected to be sharp. For example, FIG. 7 illustrates improved sharpness when comparing k=50 to k=5184. More specifically, images **120** are the average warped images at η_{max}=10 with k=50 Similarly, images **122** are the average warped images at η_{max}=10 with k=5184, and images **124** are the average warped images at the initialization. As will be appreciated, improved sharpness can be observed in the eye and mouth regions of images **120**, as compared to images **122** and **124**.

Furthermore, FIG. 8 illustrates several images which plot the locations of the selected features at five iterations when η_{max}=10 and k=50. For example, a first image **140** illustrates selected feature locations **142** at iteration #1. Additionally, a second image **144** illustrates selected feature locations **142** at iteration #18, a third image **146** illustrates selected feature locations **142** at iteration #35, a fourth image **148** illustrates selected feature locations **142** at iteration #52, and a fifth image **150** illustrates selected feature locations **142** at iteration #69. At different iterations, distinctive features are selected, many of which are co-located with facial features. For areas with relatively uniform appearance, such as cheeks **152**, fewer features are chosen due to higher redundancy.

In summary, the disclosed embodiments include a novel unsupervised feature selection algorithm which may be incorporated into least-square-based congealing algorithms for use in object recognition and detection. For example, FIG. 9 illustrates a method **160**, which includes the disclosed techniques. Specifically, as represented by block **162**, a graph having features as the vertices is constructed. Thereafter, the connectivity between the vertices is determined by the maximum information compression index, as represented by block **164**. The graph is partitioned into subsets using power iteration clustering, and a representative feature is selected from each subset, as represented by block **166**. Subsequently, as indicated by block **168**, the subsets of the feature representation are used for image congealing. In other words, only a portion of the original feature presentation is used for congealing in a least-square-based congealing algorithm. In this manner, irrelevant and/or redundant features may be reduced or removed from the congealing process.

With the massive image data available for various object classes, image congealing is a key technology to automatically estimate the rigid or non-rigid deformation of the object instances. With an integrated and efficient unsupervised feature selection, the proposed congealing algorithm opens the potential of effectively performing congealing for a large image ensemble, despite the high dimensionality in the original feature representation. For example, with merely 3% of the original features, the proposed congealing algorithm can complete in less than 40% of the time as conventional congealing methods without feature selection, yet still improve the accuracy and robustness of congealing.

1. A method, comprising:

integrating an unsupervised feature selection algorithm with a least-square based congealing algorithm;

selecting a subset of features from an initial feature representation with the unsupervised feature selection algorithm; and

executing the least-square based congealing algorithm to estimate warping parameters for a plurality of images in an ensemble using the subset of features.

integrating an unsupervised feature selection algorithm with a least-square based congealing algorithm;

selecting a subset of features from an initial feature representation with the unsupervised feature selection algorithm; and

executing the least-square based congealing algorithm to estimate warping parameters for a plurality of images in an ensemble using the subset of features.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the subset of features comprises less than approximately 3% of the initial feature representation.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the subset of features comprises a first representative feature from a first subset of the initial feature representation and a second representative feature from a second subset of the initial feature representation.

4. The method of claim 3, comprising selecting the first representative feature and the second representative feature based on a feature similarity measure.

5. The method of claim 3, comprising dividing the initial feature representation into the first subset and the second subset automatically.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein selecting a subset of features from an initial feature representation with the unsupervised feature selection algorithm comprises using a filter method to select the subset of features from the initial feature representation.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein using a filter method to select the subset of features from the initial feature representation comprises removing irrelevant features and/or redundant features of the initial feature representation from the subset of features.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein executing the least-square based congealing algorithm to estimate warping parameters for the plurality of images in the ensemble using the subset of features comprises estimating initial warping parameters, computing warping parameter updates, and updating the initial warping parameters to calculate current warping parameters.

9. A method, comprising:

incorporating an unsupervised feature selection algorithm into an image congealing algorithm;

executing the unsupervised feature selection algorithm, comprising:

constructing a graph having features of an image as vertices;

determining a connectivity between the vertices;

partitioning the graph into two or more subsets of features; and

selecting representative features from each subset of features; and

executing the image congealing algorithm to estimate warping parameters for the image using the representative features.

incorporating an unsupervised feature selection algorithm into an image congealing algorithm;

executing the unsupervised feature selection algorithm, comprising:

constructing a graph having features of an image as vertices;

determining a connectivity between the vertices;

partitioning the graph into two or more subsets of features; and

selecting representative features from each subset of features; and

executing the image congealing algorithm to estimate warping parameters for the image using the representative features.

constructing a graph having features of an image as vertices;

determining a connectivity between the vertices;

partitioning the graph into two or more subsets of features; and

selecting representative features from each subset of features; and

10. The method of claim 9, wherein the image congealing algorithm is a least-square based congealing algorithm.

11. The method of claim 9, comprising determining the connectivity between the vertices using a feature similarity measure.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the feature similarity measure comprises a maximum information compression index, a heuristic algorithm, a spectral clustering algorithm, or any combination thereof.

13. The method of claim 9, comprising partitioning the graph into two or more subsets of features using a power iteration clustering algorithm, wherein the power iteration clustering algorithm comprises a perturbation enhancement.

14. The method of claim 9, comprising partitioning the graph into two or more subsets of features using a Dirichlet process mixture model.

15. The method of claim 9, comprising executing multiple iterations of the image congealing algorithm and executing the unsupervised feature selection algorithm before each iteration of the image congealing algorithm.

16. The method of claim 9, wherein a number of the two or more subsets of features is determined automatically.

17. The method of claim 9, wherein a number of the two or more subsets of features is predetermined, and a number of representative features from each subset of features is predetermined.

18. A method, comprising:

minimizing a cost function of an image congealing process, comprising:

selecting a subgroup of features for each of a plurality of original feature representations with an unsupervised feature selection algorithm, wherein each of the plurality of original feature representations corresponds to a respective image of a plurality of images in an ensemble; and

estimating warping parameters for each of the plurality of images using the subgroups of features in a least-square-based congealing algorithm.

minimizing a cost function of an image congealing process, comprising:

selecting a subgroup of features for each of a plurality of original feature representations with an unsupervised feature selection algorithm, wherein each of the plurality of original feature representations corresponds to a respective image of a plurality of images in an ensemble; and

estimating warping parameters for each of the plurality of images using the subgroups of features in a least-square-based congealing algorithm.

selecting a subgroup of features for each of a plurality of original feature representations with an unsupervised feature selection algorithm, wherein each of the plurality of original feature representations corresponds to a respective image of a plurality of images in an ensemble; and

estimating warping parameters for each of the plurality of images using the subgroups of features in a least-square-based congealing algorithm.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the unsupervised feature selection algorithm comprises:

generating a graph for each image, wherein vertices of the graph comprise the features of the original feature representation;

determining connectivity between the vertices with a maximum information compression index;

dividing the graph into subsets using a power iteration clustering method; and

selecting a representative feature from each subset to determine the subgroup of features.

generating a graph for each image, wherein vertices of the graph comprise the features of the original feature representation;

determining connectivity between the vertices with a maximum information compression index;

dividing the graph into subsets using a power iteration clustering method; and

selecting a representative feature from each subset to determine the subgroup of features.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein a number of selected features in each subgroup is less than approximately 3% of a total number of features of the respective original feature representation.