ERCIM News No.25 - April 1996 - FORTH

Content-based Image Similarity Search on the Web

by Stelios Orphanoudakis and Catherine Chronaki

The World Wide Web is currently enjoying great popularity due to its visual nature and information retrieval capabilities. In this vast, dynamic information infrastructure, medical information systems, which support content-based similarity queries and other advanced browsing and navigation capabilities, are likely to play an increasingly important role in medical training, research, and clinical decision making.

I2Cnet is an ongoing project at ICS-FORTH, whose goal is to provide network-transparent content-based access to geographically distributed repositories of medical images. Each medical image repository is managed by an I2C server. Through a standard web browser, users may request services related to the content-based management of images. Network-transparency is facilitated by I2C service brokers, which maintain a directory of the services available throughout I2Cnet. Available services include various classes of images, image posting (ie making an image available for description), and image analysis. Based on profiles of the available services, service brokers select an appropriate subset of the I2C servers, effectively translating the network-transparent query into a server-specific one.

In the case of content-based image similarity queries, the user interacts with web pages (effectively filling HTML forms) and then browses the retrieved images. These pages may be of arbitrary complexity, containing HTML forms with embedded script language and/or applets, and cater to advanced user interaction. Thus, a user formulating a service request to I2Cnet will be able to drag and drop an image, a sketch, or even a voice recording into an HTML form. For example, a physician confronted with a difficult case may retrieve images similar to the images in an electronic patient record by dragging them into their favorite query page. Furthermore, the same interface will enable authorized users connected to the health care network to interoperate with dedicated medical information systems. The resulting service request is then forwarded to a subset of the available I2C servers.

The response of I2Cnet to a network-transparent query consists of the responses provided by the servers to which the query was forwarded. To improve the overall quality of the provided services, the user is prompted to provide feedback on the quality of these services. This permits I2Cnet to evolve intelligently, since fast servers with rich data description repositories and accurate responses are likely to be used more frequently in network-transparent queries, while slow servers with unreliable services become obsolete. User feedback is taken into account in the profiles maintained by the service broker and affects its future behavior with respect to the way the queries are resolved. Service brokers maintain a directory of available services throughout I2Cnet, "server profiles" which reflect overall server performance, "user profiles" which reflect user preferences and information on the client platform, and "service profiles" which reflect the availability and quality of particular I2C services.

The implementation of I2Cnet is currently in progress and we expect that this new service will soon be available on the web.

For additional information on this activity, visit:

Please contact:
Stelios Orphanoudakis - ICS-FORTH
Tel: +30 81 391601
Catherine Chronaki - ICS-FORTH
Tel: +30 81 391691

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