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**Machine Vision and
**

Applications

c Springer-Verlag 1998

Extracting characters of license plates from video sequences

Yuntao Cui, Qian Huang

Siemens Corporate Research, 755 College Road East, Princeton, NJ 08536, USA; e-mail: {cui,huang}@scr.siemens.com

Received: 13 August 1997 / Accepted: 7 October 1997

Abstract. In this paper, we present a new approach to ex-

tract characters on a license plate of a moving vehicle,

given a sequence of perspective-distortion-corrected license

plate images. Different from many existing single-frame ap-

proaches, our method simultaneously utilizes spatial and

temporal information. We ﬁrst model the extraction of char-

acters as a Markov random ﬁeld (MRF), where the random-

ness is used to describe the uncertainty in pixel label assign-

ment. With the MRF modeling, the extraction of characters is

formulated as the problem of maximizing a posteriori prob-

ability based on a given prior knowledge and observations.

A genetic algorithm with local greedy mutation operator is

employed to optimize the objective function. Experiments

and comparison study were conducted and some of our ex-

perimental results are presented in the paper. It is shown that

our approach provides better performance than other single

frame methods.

Key words: Document analysis – Binarization – Image se-

quence analysis

1 Introduction

Automatic recognition of car license plates plays an impor-

tant role in trafﬁc surveillance systems. Recently, we have

seen quite a few computer-vision-based systems that recog-

nize the license plates [2, 8, 9, 13]. Most existing systems

focus on the development of a reliable optical character rec-

ognizer (OCR). However, prior to the recognition an OCR

system performs, the characters have to be extracted from

license plates. To simplify the extraction problem, the exist-

ing systems assume that a license plate is a rectangular area

containing a number of dark characters on a white back-

ground. With this assumption, various approaches exist that

extract characters using global threshold methods [8, 9, 13]

with sometimes global contrast enhancement prior to the ex-

traction [2]. Unfortunately, these methods do not work well

in most real applications because of the following factors: 1)

Correspondence to: Y. Cui

low resolution of the characters on the plate due to the appli-

cation requirement that the entire car has to be visible in the

image; 2) global thresholding or enhancement methods work

well only when the plate is uniformly illuminated and not

too noisy, which usually is not the case in real applications.

Takahashi et al. [19] proposed a morphology-based thresh-

olding method to improve the performance in extracting

characters from license plates. They viewed a character to

be the combinations of “ditches”, where a ditch is formed by

two edges with opposite direction. Then, they designed ap-

propriate morphological operators to enhance the area within

the ditch (between two edges). Although this method is suit-

able in the case when the contrast between the character and

the background is strong, it is very difﬁcult to pick up the

correct locations of edges in low-contrast images, a situation

often occurs in real applications.

Another set of solutions to extract the characters of a

license plate is to use adaptive thresholding (see [20] for

a survey of binarization methods). Unlike global methods,

adaptive approaches ﬁnd the thresholds based on the infor-

mation from local regions. Therefore, they are capable of

dealing with non-uniformly illuminated license plate images.

However, the performance of these adaptive thresholding

methods depends on the selection of the local regions. An-

other problem is that these methods tend to generate broken

characters as a single character may belong to different local

regions that have different local thresholds. To deal with this

problem, some algorithms apply region growing to ﬁll the

holes [11, 23].

Another alternative to improve the extraction is to use

additional data constraints from multiple frames. Multiframe

methods have been shown to be effective in image restora-

tion tasks [16, 21]. In this paper, we address the issue of

extracting characters by simultaneously utilizing spatial and

temporal information. In our approach, the extraction of

characters from license plate images is modeled as a 3D

Markov random ﬁeld (MRF), where the randomness is used

to describe the uncertainty in the label assignment of pix-

els. As a result, the prior knowledge which promotes the

consistency between adjacent pixels can be represented in

terms of the clique functions associated with the underlying

Gibbs probability distribution function (pdf) describing the

309

MRF. Under the MRF modeling assumption, the extraction

problem can be formulated as an optimization problem of

maximizing the a posteriori probability given prior knowl-

edge and observations. Then, a genetic algorithm with local

greedy mutation operator is employed to optimize the ob-

jective function.

The paper is organized as follows. In Sect. 2, we use the

MRF model to formulate the character extraction problem

as an optimization problem. Then, we apply a genetic algo-

rithm with our local greedy mutation operator in Sect. 3 to

optimize the objective function. Section 4 is related to the

preprocessing of how to extract license plates from images

in a sequence. In Sect. 5, we show the experimental results.

Finally, we draw our conclusions in Sect. 6.

2 The MRF-model-based character extraction

The MRF model, as an extension of the one-dimensional

Markov process, has attracted much attention in the image

processing and computer vision community (e.g., [3, 4]).

MRF models can be used to incorporate prior contextual

information or constraints in a quantitative way. Local spa-

tial/contextual dependencies can be utilized to perform bi-

narization [7]. Another advantage of the MRF-model is that

it tends to be local, hence it is suitable for parallel hardware

implementation. In this section, we present an MRF model-

based approach to extract characters from multiple frames.

The model combines the prior knowledge and observations

from both spatial and temporal dimensions into a uniﬁed

framework.

2.1 Problem statement

Our problem is to extract characters from a moving vehicle.

Such extracted results can be fed into an OCR to perform

automatic recognition. The developed approach can be used

in many applications, including automatic trafﬁc violation

control, automatic parking lot billing, etc.. Formally, assume

y

l

be the lth frame which contains a license plate, where l =

{1, 2, · · · , n}. Our goal is to extract one rectangular image

I of the license plate with size N

1

×N

2

. Each pixel z

i,j

∈ I

is labeled either as 1 (on the character) or 0 (background

pixel).

2.2 Motion model

Multiple frames of license plates are obtained during differ-

ent time intervals. Since the vehicle is moving and the view

of camera is not necessarily perpendicular to the incoming

vehicle, the license plates from different frames have not

only different size but also different perspective distortion.

The ﬁrst thing we need to do is transform each license plate

y

(l)

to a rectangular image f

l

with size N

1

× N

2

. For any

pixel y

l

i,j

on y

l

, we can map it onto f

l

i

,j

using a planar

surface motion model [1], where

i

= i + p

1

i + p

2

j + p

5

+ p

7

i

2

+ p

8

ij ,

j

= j + p

3

i + p

4

j + p

6

+ p

7

ij + p

8

j

2

. (1)

The coefﬁcients p

i

can be solved if four correspondences

are available. We will discuss this in detail in Sect. 4.

B

1

B

2

B

3

B

4

Fig. 1. A four-node clique

Extract feature points from the plate

Localize the plate of one image

Track the feature points

Correct the perspective distortion

Estimate motion parameters

Fig. 2. The diagram of the plate localization and the correction of the

perspective distortion

2.3 The MRF model

After correction of the perspective distortion, we have a

stack of equally sized license plate images, based on which,

we intend to obtain I using and MRF-model-based approach.

Let S be a ﬁnite set of N

1

× N

2

sites. Consider z to be a

binary random ﬁeld and g = {g

i,j

, (i, j) ∈ S} to be a neigh-

borhood system on S, such that

1. (i, j) is not in g

i,j

,

2. (i, j) ∈ g

k,l

, if and only if (k, l) ∈ g

i,j

, for all (i, j), (k, l) ∈

S.

We say z is an MRF with respect to g if and only if [4]:

1. P(z = s) > 0, for any realization s of z,

2. P(z

i,j

= s

i,j

|z

k,l

= s

k,l

, (i, j) / = (k, l)) = P(z

i,j

=

s

i,j

|z

k,l

= s

k,l

, (k, l) ∈ g

i,j

),

310

Fig. 3. Five images of a moving vehicle

where P(·) and P(·|·) are the joint and conditional pdfs,

respectively.

An important feature of the MRF model is that its joint

pdf has a general form, known as the Gibbs distribution

deﬁned based on the concept of cliques [4]. A clique is a

subset C ⊆ S if and only if every pair of distinct sites in C

are neighbors. Another important feature of the MRF model

is that z is an MRF on S with respect to the neighborhood

system g if and only if the probability distribution is a Gibbs

distribution based on the cliques. A Gibbs distribution can

be represented as follows:

P(s) =

1

Z

exp

−U(s)/T

, (2)

where

U(s) =

¸

c∈C

V

c

(s) (3)

is the Gibbs energy function and V

c

(s) is called the clique

potential, T is the “temperature” parameter. Finally,

Z =

¸

all s

exp

−U(s

)/T

(4)

is the normalization factor. Notice that the preceding MRF

pdf is quite rich in that the clique functions can be arbitrary

as long as they depend only on the nodes in the correspond-

ing cliques. Therefore, the MRF-model-based approach pro-

vides potential advantages in the problem of the character

311

Table 1. Clique energies

Conﬁguration of B

1

B

2

B

3

B

4

Energy

0000 1.0

0001 6.0

0010 6.0

0011 3.0

0100 6.0

0101 3.0

0110 18.0

0111 6.0

1000 1.0

1001 18.0

1010 3.0

1011 6.0

1100 3.0

1101 6.0

1110 6.0

1111 1.0

extraction, for example, we can deﬁne the clique functions to

promote the consistence of the labeling between neighboring

pixels.

2.4 The MRF-model-based formulation

We formulate the character extraction from multiframes as

a Bayesian MAP estimation problem. The MAP estimate is

at the maximum of the posterior probability P(z|{f

l

}), or

equivalently, at the maximum of the log-likelihood function

z = arg max

f

l

log P(z|f

1

, f

2

, · · · , f

n

). (5)

Applying Bayes’ theorem, we have

z = arg max

f

l

{log P(z) + log P(f

1

, f

2

, · · · , f

n

|z)}. (6)

The prior probability can be written as

P(z = s) =

1

Z

exp

−U(s)/T

U(s) =

¸

c∈C

V

c

(s) (7)

The parameter T is assumed to be 1 for simplicity. Here,

the clique energies are chosen to encourage the consistence

of the labeling between neighboring pixels. Encouragement

or discouragement is done by assigning some energy values

with a clique. We use a four node clique as shown in Fig. 1.

For the extraction problem, each pixel B

i

on the clique

is assigned either 1 or 0. Therefore, B

1

B

2

B

3

B

4

is a hex-

adecimal number which has 16 different choices. Table 1

shows one set of energy which was used in the experiments.

The observation between frames is assumed to be in-

dependent, so that the complete conditional density can be

written as

P(f

1

, f

2

, · · · , f

n

|z) =

n

¸

l=1

P(f

l

|z). (8)

Let z

l

be the extraction result based on the single frame l.

Assume the observation model is given by

z = z

l

+ N, (9)

Fig. 4. The results of the localization is shown using white rectangular

Fig. 5. The top 30 features within the license plate region

where N is a zero mean white Gaussian random ﬁeld with

variance σ

l

for each variable in N. Then, we have

P(f

l

|z) =

1

(2πσ

2

l

)

N1N2/2

exp

−

z−z

l

2

2σ

2

l

, (10)

for l = {1, 2, · · · , n}. Incorporate the prior and the condi-

tional density into Eq. 6, we have

z = arg min

z

{

¸

c∈C

V

c

(z) +

n

¸

l=1

z − z

l

2

2σ

2

l

}. (11)

The above objective function is not well behaved. Many

gradient-based techniques cannot be applied here since the

function is not differentiable. The genetic algorithm (GA)

is an adaptive search algorithm based on the mechanics of

natural selection and natural genetics [5]. GA requires only

objective function values to perform an effective search. This

characteristic makes a GA a more canonical method than

many other search schemes.

3 Optimization using GA

GAs were introduced by Holland [6] as a computational

analog of adaptive systems. Given the objective function

(11), GAs can be used to ﬁnd solution z

i

to minimize

the ﬁtness value g(z

i

). With GAs, a set of ﬁxed size is

312

Fig. 6. The tracking results

Fig. 7. The results of the mapping

prepared, called a population, consisting of M individuals

z

i

= z

i,1

z

i,2

· · · z

i,N1×N2

, where z

i,j

= 0, 1. The ﬁtness func-

tion g is used to evaluate individuals.

3.1 Simple GA

A simple GA is composed of three operators:

1. Selection. It is a process in which individuals are re-

produced according to their ﬁtness values. Intuitively,

we would like to duplicate the individuals whose ﬁtness

values are lower with higher probability for our minimiz-

ing problem. The probability of an individual z

i

being

reproduced in the next generation is deﬁned as

P

zi

=

1/g(z

i

)

¸

M

j=1

(1/g(z

j

))

. (12)

2. Crossover. It selects two individuals from the current

population with a probability χ. Then, it mates them by

exchanging the 1 ≤ l ≤ N

1

× N

2

right-most bits of the

two individuals, where the number of the exchanged bits,

l, is chosen uniformly at random from [1, N

1

×N

2

].

3. Mutation. Given a mutation probability µ, randomly

choose an individual from the population and position,

and then invert the bit.

3.2 Greedy mutation operator

In the simple GA, the ﬁttest individual in a population is

not guaranteed to survive into the next generation, and thus

an extremely good solution to the ﬁtness function may be

discovered and subsequently lost. One way to avoid this

problem is to use elitist selection in which the best individ-

ual in the population survives with probability one [15, 18].

Since the simple GA runs with a non-zero mutation rate, it is

trivial to show that a global optimum will be reached when

the GA is left to run inﬁnitely. However, the crossover and

mutation operators randomly explore the solution space in

the simple GAs. The random search is not very efﬁcient and

it makes the GAs converge very slowly, especially when the

entire solution space is large, like our case. In this paper, we

use a local greedy mutation operator to speed up the con-

313

Fig. 8. The results of the character extraction using Park’s

method

Fig. 9. The results of the character extraction using Yanowitz

and Bruckstein’s method

Fig. 10. The result after 20 iterations

vergence. Let z

i,j

be the bit selected to ﬂip. We deﬁne the

local greedy ﬂip probability P

f

to be

P

f

=

µ

1

if g(z

i

) < g(z

i

)

µ

2

otherwise

, (13)

where z

i

is z

i

with the jth bit ﬂipped and µ

1

> µ

2

> 0.

A non-zero µ

2

is necessary to prevent the GA from being

stuck on the local minima. Due to the localalism of both

the prior (cliques) and the conditional density, only a few

local pixels are needed to compute the difference between

g(z

i

) and g(z

i

). This greedy mutation operator utilizes the

problem information, thus making the solution search more

efﬁcient.

3.3 Expected convergence rate

with the greedy mutation operator

Let l = N

1

× N

2

be the length of the binary strings, then

r = 2

l

is the total number of possible strings. If n is the

population size, then the number of possible populations N

is [10]

N =

n + r − 1

n

. (14)

As can be seen, even for a relatively small image 64×64, N

can be very large. So, with the random crossover and mu-

tation operators, the GAs converge very slowly. The greedy

mutation operator which utilizes the problem information

is expected to be more efﬁcient. In this section, we use a

Markov chain model to see how the greedy mutation oper-

ator moves in the solution space and answer the following

question: what is the expected generation number that the

GA population will contain a copy of the optimum. The

closed form analysis is difﬁcult in general. Here, we con-

sider a type of problems called simple greedy problems.

Deﬁnition 1. Let z

i

be a realization in the solution space of

a problem E, which is deﬁned to minimize g(z

i

). If, for any

z

i

, there exists a j such that g(z

i

) < g(z

i

), where z

i

is z

i

with

the jth bit ﬂipped, then P is a simple greedy problem.

For a simple greedy problem, we can use the greedy

mutation operator, where µ

1

= 1.0 and χ = 0.0, to minimize

the objective function. A simple probabilistic Markov chain

is adopted to model the behavior of the algorithm. Consider

a stochastic process {z

i

, i = 0, 1, 2, · · · , N}. If z

n

= i, then

the process is said to be in state i at time n. We assume that,

whenever the process is in state i, there is a ﬁxed probability

P

i,j

that it will be in state j. Such a stochastic process is

known as a Markov chain [14].

Theorem 1. Let E be a simple greedy problem and N be

the number of possible populations. The expected generation

number that the GA population will contain a copy of the

optimum is O(log N) when the greedy mutation probability

µ

1

= 1.0 and the crossover probability χ = 0.0.

Proof. Since E is a simple greedy problem, at any time

the population has jth best solution, then after the greedy

mutation, the population should have a better solution. As-

sume that the new solution is equally likely to be any of

the j − 1 best. This can be modeled by a Markov chain for

which P

1,1

= 1 and

P

i,j

=

1

i − 1

, (15)

where j = 1, 2, · · · , i−1, i > 1. Let T

i

denote the number of

transitions needed to go from state i to state 1. A recursive

formula for E(T

i

) can be obtained by conditioning on the

initial transition:

E(T

i

) = 1 +

1

i − 1

i−1

¸

j=1

E(T

j

)

=

i−1

¸

j=1

1/j. (16)

Since

N

1

dx

x

<

N−1

¸

1

1/j < 1 +

N−1

1

dx

x

(17)

or

log N <

N−1

¸

1

1/j < 1 + log(N − 1), (18)

and so

E(T

i

) = O(log N). (19)

Theorem 1 indicates that the greedy mutation converges

much faster than random search for simple greedy problems.

What if the problem is not a simple greedy problem? This

314

Fig. 11. Five images of the second sequence of a moving vehicle

means that the search is stuck in a situation in which a single

ﬂip cannot minimize the objective function. In that case, we

have to use a non-zero µ

2

to pull out from the local minima.

Once it is out of the local minima, we can continue to apply

the greedy mutation operations.

4 License plate localization and distortion correction

Prior to applying our algorithm to extract characters from

the license plates, we ﬁrst have to localize the license plate

in each frame of a sequence and then to warp them to a

ﬁxed-size window by correcting the perspective distortion.

Figure 2 illustrates the scheme of the plate localization and

the correction of the perspective distortion.

In this scheme, we ﬁrst localize the license plate in an

image. Next, we identify distinct point features from the

detected license plate region. The feature points are tracked

in subsequent frames. Based on tracked correspondences,

warping parameters can be computed and used to map all

the detected license plate to speciﬁed windows of ﬁxed size.

4.1 Localization of the license plate

We assume that region of the license plate consists of dark

characters on top of a light background. The localization of

315

a

b

c

d

Fig. 11. (continued) Experimental results of the second sequence. a The extracted license plates of third

sequence. b The results of the character extraction using Park’s method. c The results of Yanowitz and

Bruckstein’s method. d The result after 20 iterations of our method

the license plate can be considered as ﬁnding text in images.

In our current implementation, we use the spatial variance

method proposed by Zhong et al. [24] to locate the text

region in the input image. The main idea of this method can

be explained as follows. If we compute the spatial variance

along the line of the license plate direction, we see that the

regions with high variance corresponding to the text region,

and regions with low variance corresponding to the non-text

region. Given the fact that the camera is mounted at a ﬁxed

position, we roughly know what area in the image the license

plates should appear which is independent of the motion of

vehicles. Additionally, the range of the size of license plates

can be used to discard some spurious detections.

4.2 Feature extraction

For each pixel in the detected text region, we compute its

feature using a window of size 5 ×5. Shi and Tomasi’s [17]

method was used. Let (x, y) be a pixel location within a

detected text region and I

x

(x, y) and I

y

(x, y) be its partial

derivatives. At each pixel, we have a matrix whose elements

are sums of the products of the partial derivatives taken in

a 5 × 5 window.

A =

¸ ¸

I

2

x

(x, y)

¸

I

x

(x, y)I

y

(x, y)

¸

I

x

(x, y)I

y

(x, y)

¸

I

2

y

(x, y)

. (20)

The second eigenvalue of this matrix is used as the rank at

pixel (x, y). Across the entire text region, we use this rank to

rate all the pixels. Currently, the top 30 among all such rated

pixels are chosen to be the set of features that represents the

text region and will be tracked along the sequence.

4.3 Feature tracking

We assume that vehicles are moving along the road. The

trajectories of points on the license plates are parallel in

3D space. These parallel trajectories have the same vanish-

ing point in the image plane [12]. Let V = (V

x

, V

y

) be the

vanishing point in the image plane and P = {(x

i

, y

i

)|i =

1, 2, · · · , n} be the points at the current frame. Our goal is

ﬁnd t,r,c, such that

n

¸

i=1

(I(x

i

, y

i

) −I(x

i

+ r, y

i

+ c)

2

+G(x

i

, y

i

) −G(x

i

+ r, y

i

+ r)

2

) (21)

is minimized. Here,

x

i

= V

x

+ (1 −t)x

i

,

y

i

= V

y

+ (1 −t)y

i

. (22)

Here, I is the intensity and G is the gradient. Both intensity

and edgeness are used in the tracking as described in [22].

Conditions −3 ≤ r ≤ 3 and −3 ≤ c ≤ 3 are used to

do some local reﬁnement in the case where the vehicle has

slight direction change and the vanish point estimation has

errors. The search of the solution is unidirectional and very

fast.

4.4 Correction of the perspective distortion

Tracked feature points provide correspondences needed to

solve motion parameters. Since license plates are planar ob-

jects, we need only to solve for warping parameters in or-

der to correct perspective distortion of different frames. The

planar surface motion model is described in Sect. 2.2. Us-

ing warping parameters, we map all the license plate images

onto ﬁxed-sized rectangular windows, providing a stack of

license plate images for the MRF-model-based character ex-

traction mechanism.

316

Fig. 12. Six images of the third sequence of a moving vehicle

5 Experimental results

We implemented our MRF-model-based approach to extract

characters from image sequences. The sequences of the mov-

ing vehicles were obtained from a stationary video camera.

The experimental results from three different sequences are

shown and discussed here. These sequences are representa-

tive, because they vary in terms of the resolution of the

license plate images and the illumination conditions. We

show them in a descending order, which means the ﬁrst

sequence is the best in terms of the resolution and the illu-

mination conditions and the third is the worst. For compari-

son, we also show the results obtained using Park’s [11] and

Yanowitz and Bruckstein’s [23] methods. These two meth-

ods are among the best according to [20].

Figure 3 shows ﬁve images of the ﬁrst sequence of a

moving vehicle.

The top 30 features of Fig. 4 are shown in Fig. 5.

The tracking results are shown in Fig. 6.

The tracking results were used to compute the motion

parameters. These motion parameters were then used to cor-

rect the perspective distortion. After perspective correction,

we have a stack of equally sized license plate images as

shown in Fig. 7.

Now, we are ready to apply our algorithm to extract the

characters from the sequence of rectangular frames. Park’s

317

a

b

c

d

Fig. 12. (continued) Experimental results of the third sequence. a The extracted license plates of third

sequence. b The results of the character extraction using Park’s method. c The results of Yanowitz and

Bruckstein’s method. d The result after 20 iterations of our method

[11] method was used to extract the characters from each

individual frame. The results are shown in Fig. 8. We also

show the results of Yanowitz and Bruckstein’s [23] method

in Fig. 9.

In the current implementation, we set the mutation prob-

ability µ

1

= 0.9 and µ

2

= 0.01 and the crossover probability

χ = 0.001. We use µ

1

= 0.9 instead of µ

1

= 1.0 to avoid the

oscillation between two individual bits. The population size

was 100. The use of the greedy mutation operator makes

convergence very fast. Figure 10 shows the result after 20

generations. The result is clearly better than both Park’s and

Yanowitz and Bruckstein’s single-frame methods. Yanowitz

and Bruckstein’s method generates the thin skeletons of the

characters, but also has quite a few noises because of spu-

rious edges generated by the edge detector. The size of the

plate image is 40 × 280. The block size which we use for

Park’s method is 40 × 35, which is roughly the size of one

character in the plate.

The next two sequences have poorer resolutions of the

license plate images and the illumination conditions are also

worse than in the ﬁrst sequence. Same procedures were ap-

plied to these two sequences. Figures 11 and 12 show the

results. The third sequence has very poor resolutions and il-

lumination conditions. Both Park’s and Yanowitz and Bruck-

stein’s methods failed. However, our method still gives rea-

sonable results.

318

Fig. 13. Five images of a moving vehicle

Finally, we applied our approach to extract the numbers

from containers. A sequence of images of a container is

shown in Fig. 13. The results are shown in Fig. 13a–d.

6 Conclusions

In this paper, we present a new approach to extract charac-

ters from license plates given a sequence of images. In our

approach, the extraction of characters from license plate im-

ages is modeled as an MRF, where the randomness is used

to model the uncertainty in the assignment of the pixels. As a

result, the prior knowledge which promotes the consistency

between adjacent pixels can be represented in terms of the

clique functions associated with the underlying Gibbs pdf

describing the MRF. Under the MRF modeling assumption,

extraction is then formulated as the optimization problem of

maximizing the a posteriori probability given prior knowl-

edge and observations. Then, a genetic algorithm with local

greedy mutation operator is employed to optimize the ob-

jective function. Our experimental results have shown better

performance than other single-frame methods.

By using the greedy mutation operator, we can dramat-

ically reduce the computation cost. However, it is still far

from the real-time requirement. Fortunately, the evaluation

of our objective function is local, and it is suitable for par-

allel hardware implementation.

319

a

b

c

d

Fig. 13. (continued) Experimental results of the second sequence. a The extracted container numbers. b The results of

the character extraction using Park’s method. c The results of Yanowitz and Bruckstein’s method. d The result after 20

iterations of our method

Acknowledgements. We would like to thank Dr. Shang-Hong Lai for sug-

gestions on MRF and GAs, and Dr. Marie-Pierre M. Jolly for providing us

the codes of Yanowitz and Bruckstein’s method.

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Yuntao Cui received his BS degree

from Shanghai Jiao Tong University

in 1988, MS degree from Southeastern

Massachusetts University in 1991, and

PhD from Michigan State University in

1996, all in Computer Science. He is

currently with Siemens Corporate Re-

search, Inc., Princeton, NJ. His current

research interests are video processing

applications for surveillance, multime-

dia, and visualization.

Qian Huang got her BS degree in

Computer Engineering from Shanghai,

China. She obtained her MS degree in

both computer science and industrial

engineering from Kansas State Univer-

sity. Dr Huang’s PhD is in the domain

of computer vision and pattern recog-

nition from Michigan State University.

Her current research interests include

real time video processing, content based

visual information archiving, indexing,

and retrieval, new media systems, and

integration of visual and non-visual in-

formation in multimedia applications.

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