The Annals of Statistics

Bayesian detection of image boundaries

Meng Li and Subhashis Ghosal

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Detecting boundary of an image based on noisy observations is a fundamental problem of image processing and image segmentation. For a $d$-dimensional image ($d=2,3,\ldots$), the boundary can often be described by a closed smooth $(d-1)$-dimensional manifold. In this paper, we propose a nonparametric Bayesian approach based on priors indexed by $\mathbb{S}^{d-1}$, the unit sphere in $\mathbb{R}^{d}$. We derive optimal posterior contraction rates for Gaussian processes or finite random series priors using basis functions such as trigonometric polynomials for 2-dimensional images and spherical harmonics for 3-dimensional images. For 2-dimensional images, we show a rescaled squared exponential Gaussian process on $\mathbb{S}^{1}$ achieves four goals of guaranteed geometric restriction, (nearly) minimax optimal rate adapting to the smoothness level, convenience for joint inference and computational efficiency. We conduct an extensive study of its reproducing kernel Hilbert space, which may be of interest by its own and can also be used in other contexts. Several new estimates on modified Bessel functions of the first kind are given. Simulations confirm excellent performance and robustness of the proposed method.

Article information

Ann. Statist., Volume 45, Number 5 (2017), 2190-2217.

Received: September 2015
Revised: May 2016
First available in Project Euclid: 31 October 2017

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Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)

Zentralblatt MATH identifier

Primary: 62G20: Asymptotic properties 62H35: Image analysis
Secondary: 62F15: Bayesian inference 60G15: Gaussian processes

Boundary detection Gaussian process on sphere image posterior contraction rate random series squared exponential periodic kernel Bayesian adaptation


Li, Meng; Ghosal, Subhashis. Bayesian detection of image boundaries. Ann. Statist. 45 (2017), no. 5, 2190--2217. doi:10.1214/16-AOS1523.

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Supplemental materials

  • Supplement to “Bayesian detection of image boundaries”. The supplementary file contains proofs to all lemmas and propositions in the paper.