Blobworld: Image segmentation using expectation-maximization and its application to image querying

Chad Carson*, Serge Belongie, Hayit Greenspan, Jitendra Malik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Retrieving images from large and varied collections using image content as a key is a challenging and important problem. We present a new image representation that provides a transformation from the raw pixel data to a small set of image regions that are coherent in color and texture. This "Blobworld" representation is created by clustering pixels in a joint color-texture-position feature space. The segmentation algorithm is fully automatic and has been run on a collection of 10,000 natural images. We describe a system that uses the Blobworld representation to retrieve images from this collection. An important aspect of the system is that the user is allowed to view the internal representation of the submitted image and the query results. Similar systems do not offer the user this view into the workings of the system; consequently, query results from these systems can be inexplicable, despite the availability of knobs for adjusting the similarity metrics. By finding image regions that roughly correspond to objects, we allow querying at the level of objects rather than global image properties. We present results indicating that querying for images using Blobworld produces higher precision than does querying using color and texture histograms of the entire image in cases where the image contains distinctive objects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1026-1038
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2002


  • Clustering
  • Expectation-Maximization
  • Image querying
  • Image retrieval
  • Segmentation and grouping


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