In pattern recognition, there are two basic approaches to formulating an energy function: parametric and nonparametric. In the parametric approach, the types of underlying distributions are known and the distributions are parameterized by a few parameters. Therefore, the functional form of the energy can be obtained and the energy function is completely defined when the parameters are specified.
In the nonparametric approach, sometimes called distribution free approach, no assumptions about the distributions are made. There, a distribution is either estimated from the data or approximated by a pre-specified basis functions with several unknown parameters in it to be estimated. In the latter case, the pre-specified basis functions will determine the functional form of the energy.
Despite the terms parametric and nonparametric, both approaches are somewhat parametric in nature. This is because in any case, there are always parameters that must be determined to define the energy function.
The two most important aspects of an energy function are its form and the involved parameters. The form and parameters together define the energy function which in turn defines the minimal solution. The form depends on assumptions about the solution f and the observed data d. We express this using the notation . Denote the set of involved parameters by . With , the energy is expressed further as . In general, given the functional form for E, a different d or defines a different energy function, , w.r.t. f and hence a (possibly) different minimal solution .
Since the parameters are part of the definition of the energy function , the minimal solution is not completely defined if the parameters are not specified even if the functional form is known. These parameters must be specified or estimated by some means. This is an important area of study in the MRF vision modeling.
Having formulated an energy function, one would ask the following question: Is the formulation correct? In other words, whether the minimal solution corresponds to the correct one? Before answering this, let us make some remarks on the question. First, ``the minimal solution'' is meant to be the global one, or a global one if there are multiple global minima. Second, ``the correct solution'', denoted , is said here in the subjective sense of our own perception. For example, in edge detection, we run a program and get an edge map as a solution; but we find that some edges are missing and some false edges appear. This is the case where the solution differs from the subjectively correct solution of ours.
In the ideal case, the global minimal solution should correspond to the correct solution
A formulation is correct for d if the above holds. This reflects our desire to encode our ability into the machine and is the most important principle in formulating an energy function. For the time being, we do not expect the machine to surpass our ability and therefore we desire that the minimum of an energy function, or the machine's solution, be consistent with ours. Whenever there is a difference, we assume that our perception is correct and the difference is due to problems in the programs we wrote into the machine, such as incorrect assumptions made in the modeling stage.
Figure 1.5: Two global minima a and b and a local minimum c.
Let there be N sets of observations (). Supposing that is the correct solution for in our perception, we say that the functional form of the energy E and the chosen parameters are correct for the N observations if the following
where is the energy minimum, holds for each . Let be the space of all possible observations. If Eq.(1.68) holds for all , we say that E and , hence the formulation, is entirely correct.
A formulation may not be absolutely correct. For example, a formulation for edge detection may give solutions having some missing or falsely detected edges or having some inaccurate edge locations. The quality of a formulation may be measured by some distance between the global energy minimum and the correct solution . Ideally, it should be zero.
What about multiple global minima? Suppose there are two global minima for which , as in Fig.1.5. Both solutions a and b should be equally good if the formulation is correct. If one of them is better than the other in our perception, then there is still room to improve the formulation of . The improvement is made by adjusting either the functional form or the parameters so that the improved energy function embeds the better solution as its unique global minimum.