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Clustering and embedding using commute times

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JournalIEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence
DatePublished - Nov 2007
Issue number11
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)1873-1890
Original languageEnglish


This paper exploits the properties of the commute time between nodes of a graph for the purposes of clustering and embedding and explores its applications to image segmentation and multibody motion tracking. Our starting point is the lazy random walk on the graph, which is determined by the heat kernel of the graph and can be computed from the spectrum of the graph Laplacian. We characterize the random walk using the commute time ( that is, the expected time taken for a random walk to travel between two nodes and return) and show how this quantity may be computed from the Laplacian spectrum using the discrete Green's function. Our motivation is that the commute time can be anticipated to be a more robust measure of the proximity of data than the raw proximity matrix. In this paper, we explore two applications of the commute time. The first is to develop a method for image segmentation using the eigenvector corresponding to the smallest eigenvalue of the commute time matrix. We show that our commute time segmentation method has the property of enhancing the intragroup coherence while weakening intergroup coherence and is superior to the normalized cut. The second application is to develop a robust multibody motion tracking method using an embedding based on the commute time. Our embedding procedure preserves commute time and is closely akin to kernel PCA, the Laplacian eigenmap, and the diffusion map. We illustrate the results on both synthetic image sequences and real-world video sequences and compare our results with several alternative methods.

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