Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Computer Science


Yuri Boykov


Computer vision is full of problems that are elegantly expressed in terms of mathematical optimization, or energy minimization. This is particularly true of "low-level" inference problems such as cleaning up noisy signals, clustering and classifying data, or estimating 3D points from images. Energies let us state each problem as a clear, precise objective function. Minimizing the correct energy would, hypothetically, yield a good solution to the corresponding problem. Unfortunately, even for low-level problems we are confronted by energies that are computationally hard—often NP-hard—to minimize. As a consequence, a rather large portion of computer vision research is dedicated to proposing better energies and better algorithms for energies. This dissertation presents work along the same line, specifically new energies and algorithms based on graph cuts.

We present three distinct contributions. First we consider biomedical segmentation where the object of interest comprises multiple distinct regions of uncertain shape (e.g. blood vessels, airways, bone tissue). We show that this common yet difficult scenario can be modeled as an energy over multiple interacting surfaces, and can be globally optimized by a single graph cut. Second, we introduce multi-label energies with label costs and provide algorithms to minimize them. We show how label costs are useful for clustering and robust estimation problems in vision. Third, we characterize a class of energies with hierarchical costs and propose a novel hierarchical fusion algorithm with improved approximation guarantees. Hierarchical costs are natural for modeling an array of difficult problems, e.g. segmentation with hierarchical context, simultaneous estimation of motions and homographies, or detecting hierarchies of patterns.