Our challenge is the design of a "universal" bit-efficient image compression approach. The prime goal is to allow reconstruction of images with high quality. In addition, we attempt to design the coder and decoder "universal", such that MPEG-7-like low-and mid-level descriptors are an integral part of the coded representation.
To this end, we introduce a sparse Mixture-of-Experts regression approach for coding images in the pixel domain. The underlying stochastic process of the pixel amplitudes are modelled as a 3-dimensional and multi-modal Mixture-of-Gaussians with K modes. This closed form continuous analytical model is estimated using the Expectation-Maximization algorithm and describes segments of pixels by local 3-D Gaussian steering kernels with global support. As such, each component in the mixture of experts steers along the direction of highest correlation. The conditional density then serves as the regression function.
Experiments show that a considerable compression gain is achievable compared to JPEG for low bitrates for a large class of images, while forming attractive low-level descriptors for the image, such as the local segmentation boundaries, direction of intensity flow and the distribution of these parameters over the image.