Shape Context: A New Descriptor for Shape Matching and Object Recognition

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 13 (NIPS 2000)

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Serge Belongie, Jitendra Malik, Jan Puzicha


We develop an approach to object recognition based on match(cid:173) ing shapes and using a resulting measure of similarity in a nearest neighbor classifier. The key algorithmic problem here is that of finding pointwise correspondences between an image shape and a stored prototype shape. We introduce a new shape descriptor, the shape context, which makes this possible, using a simple and robust algorithm. The shape context at a point captures the distri(cid:173) bution over relative positions of other shape points and thus sum(cid:173) marizes global shape in a rich, local descriptor. We demonstrate that shape contexts greatly simplify recovery of correspondences between points of two given shapes. Once shapes are aligned, shape contexts are used to define a robust score for measuring shape sim(cid:173) ilarity. We have used this score in a nearest-neighbor classifier for recognition of hand written digits as well as 3D objects, using exactly the same distance function. On the benchmark MNIST dataset of handwritten digits, this yields an error rate of 0.63%, outperforming other published techniques.