Michael Isard and Andrew Blake
The problem of tracking curves in dense visual clutter is a challenging one. Trackers based on Kalman filters are of limited use; because they are based on Gaussian densities which are unimodal, they cannot represent simultaneous alternative hypotheses. Extensions to the Kalman filter to handle multiple data associations work satisfactorily in the simple case of point targets, but do not extend naturally to continuous curves. A new, stochastic algorithm is proposed here, the Condensation algorithm — Conditional Density Propagation over time. It uses `factored sampling', a method previously applied to interpretation of static images, in which the distribution of possible interpretations is represented by a randomly generated set of representatives. The Condensation algorithm combines factored sampling with learned dynamical models to propagate an entire probability distribution for object position and shape, over time. The result is highly robust tracking of agile motion in clutter, markedly superior to what has previously been attainable from Kalman filtering. Notwithstanding the use of stochastic methods, the algorithm runs in near real-time.