Texture analysis would permit improved autonomous, onboard science data interpretation for adaptive navigation, sampling, and downlink decisions. These analyses would assist with terrain analysis and instrument placement in both macroscopic and microscopic image data products. Unfortunately, most state-of-the-art texture analysis demands computationally expensive convolutions of filters involving many floating-point operations. This makes them infeasible for radiation-hardened computers and spaceflight hardware.

A new method approximates traditional texture classification of each image pixel with a fast decision-tree classifier. The classifier uses image features derived from simple filtering operations involving integer arithmetic. The texture analysis method is therefore amenable to implementation on FPGA (field-programmable gate array) hardware.

Image features based on the “integral image” transform produce descriptive and efficient texture descriptors. Training the decision tree on a set of training data yields a classification scheme that produces reasonable approximations of optimal “texton” analysis at a fraction of the computational cost. A decision-tree learning algorithm employing the traditional k-means criterion of inter-cluster variance is used to learn tree structure from training data. The result is an efficient and accurate summary of surface morphology in images.

This work is an evolutionary advance that unites several previous algorithms (k-means clustering, integral images, decision trees) and applies them to a new problem domain (morphology analysis for autonomous science during remote exploration). Advantages include order-of-magnitude improvements in runtime, feasibility for FPGA hardware, and significant improvements in texture classification accuracy.

This work was done by David R. Thompson of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-46548

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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