Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 21 (NIPS 2008)
Erik Sudderth, Michael Jordan
We develop a statistical framework for the simultaneous, unsupervised segmentation and discovery of visual object categories from image databases. Examining a large set of manually segmented scenes, we use chi--square tests to show that object frequencies and segment sizes both follow power law distributions, which are well modeled by the Pitman--Yor (PY) process. This nonparametric prior distribution leads to learning algorithms which discover an unknown set of objects, and segmentation methods which automatically adapt their resolution to each image. Generalizing previous applications of PY processes, we use Gaussian processes to discover spatially contiguous segments which respect image boundaries. Using a novel family of variational approximations, our approach produces segmentations which compare favorably to state--of--the--art methods, while simultaneously discovering categories shared among natural scenes.