Gabor filter

In image processing, a Gabor filter, named after Dennis Gabor, is a linear filter used for edge detection. Frequency and orientation representations of Gabor filter are similar to those of human visual system, and it has been found to be particularly appropriate for texture representation and discrimination. In the spatial domain, a 2D Gabor filter is a Gaussian kernel function modulated by a sinusoidal plane wave. The Gabor filters are self-similar – all filters can be generated from one mother wavelet by dilation and rotation.

Its impulse response is defined by a harmonic function multiplied by a Gaussian function. Because of the multiplication-convolution property (Convolution theorem), the Fourier transform of a Gabor filter's impulse response is the convolution of the Fourier transform of the harmonic function and the Fourier transform of the Gaussian function. The filter has a real and an imaginary component representing orthogonal directions[1]. The two components may be formed into a complex number or used individually.


g(x,y;\lambda,\theta,\psi,\sigma,\gamma) = \exp\left(-\frac{x'^2+\gamma^2y'^2}{2\sigma^2}\right)\exp\left(i\left(2\pi\frac{x'}{\lambda}+\psi\right)\right)


g(x,y;\lambda,\theta,\psi,\sigma,\gamma) = \exp\left(-\frac{x'^2+\gamma^2y'^2}{2\sigma^2}\right)\cos\left(2\pi\frac{x'}{\lambda}+\psi\right)


g(x,y;\lambda,\theta,\psi,\sigma,\gamma) = \exp\left(-\frac{x'^2+\gamma^2y'^2}{2\sigma^2}\right)\sin\left(2\pi\frac{x'}{\lambda}+\psi\right)


x' = x \cos\theta + y \sin\theta\,


y' = -x \sin\theta + y \cos\theta\,

In this equation, λ represents the wavelength of the sinusoidal factor, θ represents the orientation of the normal to the parallel stripes of a Gabor function, ψ is the phase offset, σ is the sigma of the Gaussian envelope and γ is the spatial aspect ratio, and specifies the ellipticity of the support of the Gabor function.

Wavelet space

Gabor filters are directly related to Gabor wavelets, since they can be designed for a number of dilations and rotations. However, in general, expansion is not applied for Gabor wavelets, since this requires computation of bi-orthogonal wavelets, which may be very time-consuming. Therefore, usually, a filter bank consisting of Gabor filters with various scales and rotations is created. The filters are convolved with the signal, resulting in a so-called Gabor space. This process is closely related to processes in the primary visual cortex[2]. Jones and Palmer showed that the real part of the complex Gabor function is a good fit to the receptive field weight functions found in simple cells in a cat's striate cortex[3].

The Gabor space is very useful in image processing applications such as optical character recognition, iris recognition and fingerprint recognition. Relations between activations for a specific spatial location are very distinctive between objects in an image. Furthermore, important activations can be extracted from the Gabor space in order to create a sparse object representation.

Demonstration of a Gabor filter applied to Chinese OCR. Four orientations are shown on the right 0°, 45°, 90° and 135°. The original character picture and the superposition of all four orientations are shown on the left.

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