Generators

dragon

A generator (as I will use the term here) is an object that can “generate” other objects on demand. They work like random generators, except that they need not generate numbers or do so randomly: you ask it for the next value, and it gives it to you.

The naive generator is simply a class that supports this method:

T Next();

Generators work a bit like iterators, but they are slightly different:

  • Iterators work on both finite and infinite sequences, while generators are always (supposed to be) infinite.
  • Iterators are typically used in loops to process elements in sequence on the spot. Generators are generally use over some time span (similar to how random numbers are often used in simulations).
  • Iterators are usually restarted on each use; generators are rarely restarted.

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2D Minimum and Maximum Filters: Algorithms and Implementation Issues

A while back I needed to implement fast minimum and maximum filters for images. I devised (what I thought was) a clever approximation scheme where the execution time is not dependent on the window size of the filter. But the method had some issues, and I looked at some other algorithms. In retrospect, the method I used seems foolish. At the time, I did not realise the obvious: a 1D filter could be applied to first the rows, and then the columns of an image, which makes the slow algorithm faster, or allows you to use one of the many published fast 1D algorithms.

I wanted to write down my gained knowledge, and started to work on a blog post. But soon it became quite long, so I decided to put it into a PDF document instead. You can download it below.

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A Simple Trick for Moving Objects in a Physics Simulation

(Original Image by Valerie Everett)

It is sometime necessary to move an object in a physics simulation to a specific point. On the one hand, it can be difficult to analyse the exact force you have to apply; on the other hand it might not look so good if you animate the object’s position directly.

A compromise that works well in many situations is to use a spring-damper system to move the object.

The trick is simple: we apply two forces—the one is proportional to the displacement; the other is proportional to the velocity. Tweaked correctly, they combine to give realistic movement to the desired point.

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Region Quadtrees in C++

quadtree

(Original image by GoAwayStupidAI).

Below are four C++ implementations of the region quadtree (the kind used for image compression, for example). The different implementations were made in an attempt to optimise construction of quadtrees. (For a tutorial on implementing region quadtrees, see Issue 26 [6.39 MB zip] of Dev.Mag).

  • NaiveQuadtree is the straightforward implementation.
  • AreaSumTableQuadtree uses a summed area table to perform fast calculations of the mean and variance of regions in the data grid.
  • AugmentedAreaSumTableQuadtree is the same, except that the area sum table has an extra row and column of zeros to prevents if-then logic that slows it down and makes it tricky to understand.
  • SimpleQuadtree is the same as AugmentedAreaSumTableQuadtree , except that no distinction is made (at a class level) between different node types.

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Catching Common Image Processing Programming Errors with Generic Unit Tests

crash test dummy

When implementing image algorithms, I am prone to make these mistakes:

  • swapping x and y;
  • working on the wrong channel;
  • making off-by-one errors, especially in window algorithms;
  • making division-by-zero errors;
  • handling borders incorrectly; and
  • handling non-power-of-two sized images incorrectly.

Since these types of errors are prevalent in many image-processing algorithms, it would be useful to develop, once and for all, general tests that will catch these errors quickly for any algorithm.

This post is about such tests.

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Simple, Fast* Approximate Minimum / Maximum Filters

minmax

*Fast = not toooo slow…

For the image restoration tool I had to implement min and max filters (also erosion and dilation—in this case with a square structuring element). Implementing these efficiently is not so easy. The naive approach is to simply check all the pixels in the window, and select the maximum or minimum value. This algorithm’s run time is quadratic in the window width, which can be a bit slow for the bigger windows that I am interested in. There are some very efficient algorithms available, but they are quite complicated to implement properly (some require esoteric data structures, for example monotonic wedges (PDF)), and many are not suitable for floating point images.

So I came up with this approximation scheme. It uses some expensive floating point operations, but its run time is constant in the window width.

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Poisson Disk Sampling Example Code

poissonI decided to put the Poisson disk sampling code here for download since the site that hosted it is down. The code accompanies the tutorial on Dev.Mag: Poisson Disk Sampling.

Download

poisson_disk_java.zip (184 KB)
poisson_disk_python.zip (912 KB)
poisson_disk_ruby.zip (59 KB)

15 Steps to Implement a Neural Net

neuron

(Original image by Hljod.HuskonaCC BY-SA 2.0).

I used to hate neural nets. Mostly, I realise now, because I struggled to implement them correctly. Texts explaining the working of neural nets focus heavily on the mathematical mechanics, and this is good for theoretical understanding and correct usage. However, this approach is terrible for the poor implementer, neglecting many of the details that concern him or her.

This tutorial is an implementation guide. It is not an explanation of how or why neural nets work, or when they should or should not be used. This tutorial will tell you step by step how to implement a very basic neural network. It comes with a simple example problem, and I include several results that you can compare with those that you find.

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Getting More out of Seamless Tiles

tiles_header_smallI wrote an article for Dev.Mag covering some techniques for working with seamless tile sets such as making blend tiles, getting more variety with procedural colour  manipulation, tile placement strategies, and so on. 

Check it out!

The Python Image Code has also been updated with some of the algorithms explained in the article.

Generating Random Integers With Arbitrary Probabilities

header

I finally laid my hands on Donald Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming (what a wonderful set of books!), and found a neat algorithm for generating random integers 0, 1, 2, … , n – 1, with probabilities p_0, p_1, … , p_(n-1).

I have written about generating random numbers (floats) with arbitrary distributions for one dimension and higher dimensions, and indeed that method can be adapted for generating integers with specific probabilities. However, the method described below is much more concise, and efficient (I would guess) for this special case. Moreover, it is also easy to adapt it to generate floats for continuous distributions.

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