Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Language and tutorials for the external rule base


I have spent a couple of weeks thinking about how to organize the external rule database for ShapeLogic, and have done more reading about Java 6 Scripting. That should be adequate for my need, but I am reluctant to add more dependencies to ShapeLogic than absolutely necessary.

I am now debating what scripting language would be best for Java 6 Scripting:
Groovy: Comes out as maybe the strongest contender, but I tried Groovy 2 times before only to find out it was not ready for prime time yet, but maybe with version 1.5 it is finally there.
BeanShell 2: It has been in beta for over 2 years and does not seem to be in active development.
Jyton: I have been a big fan of Python for almost 10 years now, but the white space indention does not work so well with code stored in a database or flat file.
JavaScript/Rhino: I like it and people know it, but it would be better if it was a language that was using native Java types.


After seeing a 20 minute screen cast for Ruby on Rail by David Heinemeier Hansson, my new test for if a programming library or language is worth spending time on is if it has a 20 minute screen cast, where they can do something non-trivial. I do not adhere to this rigorously.
Given that I have a thicker Danish accent than David Hansson, I have been looking for other options.
One of my friends Joe Orr, see Joe's blog 3DTree Notebook, has created a very interesting alternative to screen casts called Screenbook Maker, it is a program that takes screen shots of a demonstration and adds text to it, to turn it into a tutorial, which is searchable.
Joe has promised me to help make a Screenbook tutorial when the external rule database is released.

-Sami Badawi

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Declarative programming using Java 6 Scripting

I am working on moving the declarative programming in ShapeLogic into an external rule database now.

Currently the rules in ShapeLogic are parsed from strings using Apache Commons JEXL library.
So the letter A would have a rule saying:
polygon.holeCount == 1

This is not trivial since a variable say polygon.holeCount could have different values in different contexts.
E.g. if there was a choice of 2 different thresholds levels, then in one part of the choice tree we could have
polygon.holeCount == 1 and in another we could have
polygon.holeCount == 2.

I am considering changing from JEXL to using the Java 6 Scripting instead.
JEXL has not been released for over 1 year, and it is a little awkward to handle static fields and functions.
It might also be better to let the user chose what scripting language they want to use.
Currently there languages should be available for scripting: JavaScript, BeanShell, Jython, Groovy and JRuby.

One issue is that I cannot just use variable binding in a global scripting context.
In my example from above if the variable polygon.holeCount does not exist in the top context, I will have to make sure that it is taken from the right context. This was relatively easy in JEXL since a context here mainly is just a map you store your key values pairs in, I am not sure if this is a problem when you are dealing with a whole dynamic scripting language. I am also a little concerned about performance.

I might make a release of ShapeLogic 0.9 where you just can select another rule database stored in a flat file or a database, but using the current system, in order not to drag the next release out too long. This should allow the users to define rules for matching a separate alphabet, say the Greek.
But it is far from what I want ShapeLogic to be able to do.

-Sami Badawi

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Declarative and Object Oriented programming

One of the main objectives for ShapeLogic is to make a good hybrid of Declarative programming and Object Oriented programming. This is not specific to computer vision, but is a general problem. This is a daunting task, and many people have tried and the state of the art still leaves a lot to be desired.

I have started to work on the first release of ShapeLogic with an external rule based engine, I have not worked through all the problems yet. I think that this is a case of evolutionary programming where you have to try out and approach, not knowing if it will lead to anything useful. Hopefully I will have ShapeLogic 0.9 ready pretty soon.

I think that the key is to keep it simple and keep the syntax easy to work with. Let me just give my 2 cents on a few project that combined Declarative programming and Object Oriented programming.

Approaches that impressed me

Prova is a Java Prolog hybrid. I was very impressed by the simplicity and how well it managed to integrate queries with normal database access. Unfortunately I do not think that Prolog is applicable to the approach to computer vision, that I am pursuing in ShapeLogic now.

List Comprehension in Python and Haskell. It is somewhat limited, but it is very convenient to work with.

Microsoft LINQ, I think that it is great that you can use the same simple syntax to query databases, XML and collections.

Hibernate and ORM tools: While I do not think that the dust has settled yet as to how feasible they are for production system with large databases. I think they are very promising. This was the reason that I included Hibernate in ShapeLogic, despite it not being used much yet.

Promising approaches that I found hard to work with

Drools: An open source RETE engine for the Java JVM. It comes with a lot of cool features, but I thought that the example program setting a rule up to calculate Fibonacci numbers was too complicated.

OWL: Works with XML / RDF. It is a standard. It comes with good open source tools, but it just seems too heavy weight for my purpose.

-Sami Badawi

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Registered blog with technorati

Blogging is still new to me, but I registered my blog with Technorati.
I also adjusted my terminology from Robotic Vision to Computer Vision.
In 1990 when I told people that I was writing my thesis on Computer Vision they would always say:
Oh you mean virtual reality.
That was big in the early 90ies, so I started saying Robotic Vision instead. I now realized that this term is not used much, and not applicable as a tag.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Day of Judgment was postponed

Yesterday I sent out an announcement about ShapeLogic to the ImageJ mailing list, not sure if it would generate any interest at all. I was very happy to see that there were 21 downloads on the first day, so at least there was some interest.

I was considering to start working on a medical image analysis problem next. It was presented to me by a medical scientist doing Alzheimer's research. It was a very interesting problem, but it would take me at least a few months to finish it.

Since there are some interest in ShapeLogic I am now thinking that maybe it is better to first focus on ShapeLogic primary focus, to be a toolkit for declarative logic in machine vision and image processing.

When a user is trying the letter matching example the rules are stored in a Java class. There is a unit test that is writing these rules to a database first and then gets them from the database before doing the letter match, but this is not available in the user interface yet.
It would be better if the users could define a new set of rules themselves in a database or a flat file. E.g. the user could have a file that does matching for a different alphabet or other symbols.

I will probably also clean the letter match example up a little more. E.g.: The skeletonizer will create little Y junctions at the bottom point of a V, which will trick some rules.

I hope that this will get ShapeLogic to beta quality in a couple of releases, maybe around ShapeLogic v 1.0. This is probably a statement that I will live to regret, when I announce that ShapeLogic v 2.0 finally have reached beta quality in half a year.

-Sami Badawi

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day of Judgment or day of indifference?

The time of hiding in shame is over. ShapeLogic is finally presentable enough, so I sent out an announcement about ShapeLogic to the ImageJ mailing list this morning.

I have not had any contact with the image processing or vision community. So I have no idea if the list readers will think it is horrible or promising or not think anything at all.

I have still not made my mind up about what to work on next: There is an idea for a medical image processing example that is interesting, but also quite involved.

The letter match could also use a little more cleanup:
Sometimes the skeletonizer will create little Y junctions at the bottom point of a V, which will trick simple rules.

I would like to get ShapeLogic to beta quality as soon as possible, I hope that this will happen in the next couple of releases.

-Sami Badawi

Sunday, December 9, 2007

100 downloads of ShapeLogic

I am Sami Badawi, robotic vision has been my biggest passion since 1989, but starting in August 2007 I created a Java software library for image processing and robotic vision called ShapeLogic:

I have not advertised ShapeLogic since it was pre alpha quality, however, two weeks ago I released ShapeLogic v 0.7, which was the first alpha quality release. Last week I got the website up and running, then to my big surprise somebody found it, and I got over 100 downloads of ShapeLogic 0.7 last week. I am not sure how many were downloads by spiders and robots, but this was enough to create this blog and a mailing list:

I released ShapeLogic v 0.8 two days ago, which has a better syntax for the logical expressions, which were pretty convoluted in 0.7 and also completely undocumented.

I am planning to improve the documentation and clean up the web site next.
After that I would like to work on applying ShapeLogic to a medical image processing problem.

This is my first blog so I am in unknown territory.

Thanks for your interest,
-Sami Badawi