Section: Scientific Foundations
Sparse Representations and Bayesian model selection
Sparse representation methods aim at finding representations of a signal with a small number of components taken from an over-complete dictionary of elementary functions or vectors. Sparse representation are of interest in a number of applications in Physics and signal processing. In particular, they provide a simple characterization of certain families of signals encountered in practice. For example, smooth signals can be shown to have a sparse representation in over-complete Fourier or wavelet dictionaries. More recently, it has been emphasized in  that the solutions of certain differential equations (e.g., diffusion or transport equation) have a sparse representation in dictionaries made up of curvelets.
Finding the sparse representation of a signal typically requires to solve an under-determined system of equations under the constraint that the solution is composed of the minimum number of non-zero elements. Unfortunately, this problem is known to be NP-hard and sub-optimal procedures have to be devised to find practical solutions. Among the various algorithms that find approximate solutions, let us mention for example the matching pursuit, orthogonal matching pursuit or basis pursuit algorithms.
Choosing appropriate models and fixing hyper-parameters is a tricky and often hidden process in optic-flow estimation. Most of the motion estimators proposed so far have generally to rely on successive trials and a empirical strategy for fixing the hyper parameters values and choosing the adequate model. Besides of its computational inefficiency, this strategy may produce catastrophic estimate without any relevant feedback for the end-user, especially when motions are difficult to apprehend as for instance for complex deformations or non-conventional imagery. Imposing hard values to these parameters may also yield poor results when the lighting conditions or the underlying motions differ from those the system has been calibrated with. At the extreme, the estimate may be either too smooth or at the opposite non-existent strong motion discontinuities.
Bayesian model selection offers an attractive solution to this problem. The Bayesian paradigm implicitly requires the definition of several competing observation and prior probabilistic model(s). The observation model relates the motion of the physical system to the spatial and temporal variations of the image intensity. The prior models define the spatio-temporal constraints that the motion have to satisfy. Considering these competing models, the Bayesian theory provides methodologies to select the best models under objective performance criterion (minimum probability of error, minimum mean square error, etc). Moreover, due to the generality of this problem, numerous algorithms and approximations exist in the literature to implement efficient and effective practical solutions: Monte-Carlo integration, mean-field and Laplace approximations, EM algorithm, graphical models, etc.