Heavy-tailed Distances for Gradient Based Image Descriptors

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24 (NIPS 2011)

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Yangqing Jia, Trevor Darrell


Many applications in computer vision measure the similarity between images or image patches based on some statistics such as oriented gradients. These are often modeled implicitly or explicitly with a Gaussian noise assumption, leading to the use of the Euclidean distance when comparing image descriptors. In this paper, we show that the statistics of gradient based image descriptors often follow a heavy-tailed distribution, which undermines any principled motivation for the use of Euclidean distances. We advocate for the use of a distance measure based on the likelihood ratio test with appropriate probabilistic models that fit the empirical data distribution. We instantiate this similarity measure with the Gamma-compound-Laplace distribution, and show significant improvement over existing distance measures in the application of SIFT feature matching, at relatively low computational cost.