Query by Image Content (QBIC)

Dragutin Petkovic

Manager, Advanced Algorithms, Architectures and Applications
IBM Almaden Research Center


The QBIC (Query By Image Content) project at IBM's Almaden Research Center is studying methods to query large on-line image databases using the images' content as the basis of the queries. Examples of the content used include color, texture, shape, size, orientation, and position of image objects and regions. Key issues include derivation and computation of attributes of images and objects that provide useful query functionality, retrieval methods based on similarity as opposed to exact match, query by image example or user drawn image, the user interfaces, query refinement and navigation, high dimensional database indexing, and automatic and semi-automatic database population. We currently have a prototype system written in X/Motif and C running on an RS/6000 that allows a variety of queries, and a test database of over 2000 images and 2000 objects populated from commercially available photo clip art images. The QBIC technology is a basis for recently announced product called Ultimedia Manager 1.1. The key applications of this technology are in the areas where image patterns are the basis of the queries, like in retail cataloging, stock photo archives, art, business graphics and certain medical applications. For example, this technology is used by UC Davis Art Library (Prof. B. Holt) to answer queries like "Give me all artists that use brush strokes like Van Gough" which were not possible to answer using standard keyword search methods. In this talk we will also show a demo of the Ultimedia Manager 1.1 product that combines QBIC technology with the traditional SQL search. The work has been done by the team form IBM Almaden Research Center (project leader Wayne Niblack) and with IBM Santa Teresa Lab (product manager Frank Tung).