Spectral edge detection in two dimensions using wavefronts

L. Greengard, C. Stucchio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A recurring task in image processing, approximation theory, and the numerical solution of partial differential equations is to reconstruct a piecewise-smooth real-valued function f(x), where xℝN, from its truncated Fourier transform (its truncated spectrum). An essential step is edge detection for which a variety of one-dimensional schemes have been developed over the last few decades. Most higher-dimensional edge detection algorithms consist of applying one-dimensional detectors in each component direction in order to recover the locations in RN where f(x) is singular (the singular support). In this paper, we present a multidimensional algorithm which identifies the wavefront of a function from spectral data. The wavefront of f is the set of points (x,k→)ℝN×(SN-1/{±1}) which encode both the location of the singular points of a function and the orientation of the singularities. (Here SN-1 denotes the unit sphere in N dimensions.) More precisely, k→ is the direction of the normal line to the curve or surface of discontinuity at x. Note that the singular support is simply the projection of the wavefront onto its x-component. In one dimension, the wavefront is a subset of R1×(S0/{±1})=R, and it coincides with the singular support. In higher dimensions, geometry comes into play and they are distinct. We discuss the advantages of wavefront reconstruction and indicate how it can be used for segmentation in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-95
Number of pages27
JournalApplied and Computational Harmonic Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Directional filter
  • Edge detection
  • MRI
  • Segmentation
  • Wavefront

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics


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