A Bayesian Framework for Figure-Ground Interpretation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 23 (NIPS 2010)

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Vicky Froyen, Jacob Feldman, Manish Singh


Figure/ground assignment, in which the visual image is divided into nearer (figural) and farther (ground) surfaces, is an essential step in visual processing, but its underlying computational mechanisms are poorly understood. Figural assignment (often referred to as border ownership) can vary along a contour, suggesting a spatially distributed process whereby local and global cues are combined to yield local estimates of border ownership. In this paper we model figure/ground estimation in a Bayesian belief network, attempting to capture the propagation of border ownership across the image as local cues (contour curvature and T-junctions) interact with more global cues to yield a figure/ground assignment. Our network includes as a nonlocal factor skeletal (medial axis) structure, under the hypothesis that medial structure ``draws'' border ownership so that borders are owned by their interiors. We also briefly present a psychophysical experiment in which we measured local border ownership along a contour at various distances from an inducing cue (a T-junction). Both the human subjects and the network show similar patterns of performance, converging rapidly to a similar pattern of spatial variation in border ownership along contours.