Using intermediate objects to improve the efficiency of visual search

When using a mobile camera to search for a target object, it is often important to maximize the efficiency of the search. We consider a method for increasing efficiency by searching only those subregions that are especially likely to contain the object. These subregions are identified via spatial relationships. Searches that use this method repeatedly find an “intermediate” object that commonly participates in a spatial relationship with the target object, and then look for the target in the restricted region specified by this relationship. Intuitively, such searches, calledindirect searches, seem likely to provide efficiency increases when the intermediate objects can be recognized at low resolutions and hence can be found with little extra overhead, and when they significantly restrict the area that must be searched for the target. But what is the magnitude of this increase, and upon what other factors does efficiency depend? Although the idea of exploiting spatial relationships has been used in vision systems before, few have quantitatively examined these questions.We present a mathematical model of search efficiency that identifies the factors affecting efficiency and can be used to predict their effects. The model predicts that, in typical situations, indirect search provides up to an 8-fold increase in efficiency. Besides being useful as an analysis tool, the model is also suitable for use in an online system for selecting intermediate objects.

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