Direction des Relations Internationales (DRI)

Programme INRIA "Equipes Associées"



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sélection / selected in year



Equipe-Projet INRIA / Research team : METISS

Organisme étranger partenaire / Foreign Partner Institution : EPFL

Centre de recherche INRIA / Research Center : Rennes-Bretagne Atlantique
Thème INRIA / Scientific theme : Cognitive System

Pays/Country : SUISSE



Coordinateur français/French coordinator

Coordinateur étranger/Partner coordinator

Nom, prénom /
First Name, Name



Organisme d'appartenance/ Home Institution, Department, Lab
(précisez le département et/ou le laboratoire)


 EPFL, Laboratoire de Traitement des Signaux



La collaboration en bref / The Collaboration in brief

Titre de la thématique de collaboration / Title of the collaboration theme : SPARS : efficient sparse representations for high dimensional signal processing

Descriptif (environ 10 lignes) / Summary (approximately 10 lines) :  The representation of a signal, image or video, as a sparse linear combination of waveforms called elementary atoms (themselves stemming from a large collection called dictionary) has become a key step for many tasks in signal processing : compression, denoising, source separation... New approaches, such as random sampling, open the way to new generations of low cost sensors able to acquire very large yet strongly compressible data (high-resolution, multiple sensors, multiple heterogeneous modalities, etc...), directly in the compressed domain. Their deployment depends critically on the availability of sparse decomposition algorithms that are both fast and efficient, in order to reconstruct data after acquisition. The goal of this collaboration is to conceive, develop and analyze such algorithms, validating their use for the modelling of data, in particular in the audiovisual domain.







Partenaire(s)/ Partner

Chercheurs seniors impliqués

Senior researchers involved




Post-doctoral graduates




PhD students







Thèses en co-tutelle soutenues

Co-supervised defended PhD



Thèses en co-tutelle en cours

Current co-supervised PhD



Total des thèses soutenues

Global defended PhD



Total des thèses en cours

Global current PhD



Visites de l'équipe partenaire (hors colloques)

Travels to the partners (conferences not included)




Nombre de Publications/Number of publications

 10 conference papers

 5 journal papers (incl. 2 submitted)


Quels sont, selon vous, les points forts de cette collaboration et la valeur ajoutée de l'Equipe Associée ?
/ In your opinion, what are the main results and what is the added value of the Associate Team ?
The results obtained thanks to the Associate Team range from new knowledge on the mathematical aspects of sparse signal approximations (average-case analysis of algorithms, theoretical foundations of dictionary learning, construction of wavelets on graphs) to the development of new fast algorithms (LoCOMP sparse approximation algorithm) and the exploration of the proposed methods and models for biomedical and audiovisual applications. The format of the Associate Team program has been perceived by both partners as remarkably light and flexible, thus enabling an efficient focus on the “real work”. The theme of the partnership has greatly facilitated a multi-disciplinary cooperation between two teams of complementary background. The strong scientific relationship built during these three years has established solid foundations for future long-term and large-scale collaborations between the two groups.


Comment envisagez-vous l'avenir de cette collaboration ? (renouvellement de l'Equipe Associée, poursuite sur fonds propres, projet européen ou autre, arrêt de la coopération...)
/ How do you see the evolution of this cooperation (renewal of the Associate Team, european project or other-funding project, end of the cooperation...)
Thanks to the Associate Team, the partners have proposed and obtained European funding through the highly competitive FET-Open program for the SMALL project (Sparse Models, Algorithms and Learning for Large-Scale Data), for a duration of 3 years. For 2010 and 2011, we are therefore continuing our collaboration through the SMALL project, and are not asking to renew the Associate Team funding. We envision renewing our application to the Associate Team program in 2011-2012, should we need it to support the continuation of our collaboration during a possible transition period.




Description de l'activité scientifique de l'équipe associée et des résultats obtenus au cours des 3 dernières années : publications, communications, organisation de colloques, formation, soutenances de thèse, valorisation économique, sociale, industrielle, dépôt de brevets ... (maximum 5 pages)
Please detail the Associate Team scientific activity as well as the results obtained in the last 3 years : publications, communications, organization of conferences, training, defended PhD, valorization, patents filing...

Activités scientifiques.

Average-case analysis for multichannel sparse decomposition algorithm

From the theoretical viewpoint, we focused on the robust identification of multichannel sparse models using a wide variety of “greedy” algorithms for joint sparse decomposition. The results have confirmed our intuition that the typical behavior of these algorithms (for signals drawn from a known probabilistic model) is significantly more favorable than the worst case situation, as soon as the number of channels is large enough. Concretely, using results on measure concentration, we have found an upper bound of the probability of failure of these algorithms and we have proven that this probability decreases exponentially with the number of channels, as long as the noise level does not exceed a given threshold related to the coherence of the sparse model being identified. These results have been published in the Journal of Fourier Analysis and Applications [J2] and they have been presented in a number of workshops and international conferences [P1][P2] [C1][C2][C3][C4][C5]


Dictionary learning algorithms and their experimentation for the extraction of fibrillation signal

Joint work between the METISS Group and the LTS2 Laboratory on shift-invariant dictionary learning have been carried out in the context of Boris Mailhé’s PhD (co-directed), leading to an article published at the EUSIPCO 2008 conference [P5][C8]. Further developments of this work have taken place in cooperation with Matthieu Lemay (LTS4) for the learning of dictionaries applied to electrocardiographic signals and were published at the ICASSP 2009 conference [P8][C12]. A deeper exploitation of the models has been investigated : the models have been used in order to suppress the noise from the pathological signal prior to its analysis. Since our approach provides also a model for the pathological component, part of the analysis can be carried out directly in the model space, so as to reduce the volume of data and to focus on the most relevant part of the phenomenon.

Fast quasi-orthogonal sparse decomposition in shift-invariant dictionaries
The collaboration between the two groups (here also in the framework of Boris Mailhé’s PhD) has lead to the definition of a fast algorithm for sparse decomposition in shift-invariant dictionaries, which yields an approximation quality close to that of Orthogonal Matching Pursuit for a complexity comparable to that of Matching Pursuit. The gain in complexity is huge for the size of signals and the types of dictionaries under consideration, dropping from one day to 15 minute in terms of computation. A communication on this topic was presented at ICASSP 2009 [P9][C12] and the algorithm is being integrated in the MPTK Library, in collaboration with Dr Thomas Blumensath (Univ. Edimburgh). Joint experiments have been carried out in cooperation with Emmanuel Ravelli and Laurent Daudet (LAM, Univ. P; & M. Curie, Paris VI) in order to evaluate the impact of the new algorithm on their audio codec based on MPTK.
A journal paper is in preparation.

Audiovisual source separation using sparse representations for the audio and video components

In the framework of Anna Llagostera’s PhD, we have developed a method for jointly separating the visual and audio structures in an audiovisual shot. In fact, when watching an audiovisuals stimulus, human beings tend to focus their interest on the portion of the image that moves synchronously with incoming audio events, since human perception processes tend to correlate intuitively the movement and the audio event. Thus, an audiovisual source can be viewed as the reunion of the moving image segment (visual part of the source) and the set of sounds generated by that movement (acoustic part of the source). The task of audiovisual source separation has been achieved by computing the time-domain consistency between the video signal and the audio signal coming from one sensor. The efficiency of the sparse representations used to describe the audio and video signals made it possible to calculate empirically the correlation between the audio and video structures. Once this correlation calculated, the active audiovisual sources in a scene were quantified, localized and finally separated both in the audio and the video domains.

This method was first tested on artificial audiovisual shots, synthesized from the CUAVE database. The results were found to be of very good quality in several respects: estimation of the number of sources, detection of activity intervals, separation on the visual component. The separation performance on the acoustic component was evaluated with the BSS Evaluation Toolbox developed at INRIA, and the audio result was rated as being of good quality too. This work was presented at the ICASSP’08 conference [P4] [C7].

In a second step, our method was exhaustively tested on a large number of audiovisual shots, some of which showing significant complexity factors such as the presence of musical instruments, a complex background or two speakers with similar voices. The proposed approach yielded successful results, some of which can be accessed on and they were presented in a [J3]. An extension of this work to multi-channel audio recording was carried out in collaboration with Simon Arberet (PhD student at IRISA) : the focus of this work was to use video information to determine the number of active sources at a given time, and thus to aid audio source separation methods in the underdetermined case. The approach was based on the following steps : 1) use the (multi-channel) audio components to separate the sources in the audio domain only, and extract from this an estimation of the amplitude envelop for each source; 2) learn video atoms from the video component; 3) Select those of the video atoms which are most correlated with the audio envelop amplitude for the various sources estimated in step 1; 4) Determine the combination of active sources from the most mobile video atoms, when the this combination is difficult to identify in the audio-domain. Experiments have shown that the video atoms learnt by the proposed process were not sufficiently correlated with the audio source activity and therefor were not usable for source separation in the case of a multi-channel instantaneous audio mixture.

Theoretical results on dictionary identifiability
Even though a variety of heuristic methods for dictionary learning exist in the context of sparse representations (in particular those proposed and studied in the framework of the Associate Team [J1]), current approaches drastically lack of mathematical modeling and their algorithmic complexity is generally prohibitive. We have strengthened the effort started in 2007 in exploring this area, and we focused on the fundamental theoretical question of dictionary identifiability. For this purpose, we have developed, in the context of Karin Schnass’ PhD, an analytical approach which was published during the ISCCSP 2008 conference [P3][C6], which states “geometrical” conditions under which a dictionary is ‘locally identifiable’ by L1-minimization In a second step, we have sought to characterize the volume of training examples which are typically needed for the dictionary to be identifiable (by L1 minimization) and we obtained the following result : a number of training example proportional to the dimension of the dictionary is sufficient to yield identifiability. This property can be considered as surprising with respect to previous studies, which hinted the need of a combinatory number of examples to guarantee identifiability. These results were published at the EUSIPCO 2008 conference [P6][P7][C8] and a selection of related results has been presented at the SIMAI 2008 conference [C9] and other workshops in 2009 [C10] [C11] [C13] [C14] [C15] and submitted as a journal paper [J5].

Compressed sensing applied to Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) signals
In collaboration with Dr Laurent Jacques (EPFL and UCL-Belgium), the SPARS partners have defined and supervised a summer internship project (Farid Naini Mohavedian) on sampling schemes using compressed sensing for UWB signals. More specifically, we studied a model of signals are sparsely represented on a shift-invariant dictionary. We have shown that it was extremely advantageous to pre-condition the random sampling in the Fourier domain by multiplying the signal by a wide-band sequence in the analog domain. We have also studied a simplified scenario which enables a hardware implementation of our technique and we checked that the performance was not affected by this simplification. Our approach could be applied in UWB communication but also for sensor design in the field of life sciences. Our results were published at the ICASSP 2009 conference [P10][C12].

Wavelets on graphs
There are many problems where data is collected through a graph structure: scattered or non-uniform sampling, sensor networks, data on sampled manifolds or even social networks or databases. Motivated by the wealth of new potential applications of sparse representations to these problems, the partners set out a program to generalize wavelets on graphs. More precisely, we have introduced a new notion of wavelet transform for data defined on the vertices of an undirected graph. Our construction uses the spectral theory of the graph laplacian as a generalization of the classical Fourier transform. The basic ingredient of wavelets, multi-resolution, is defined in the spectral domain via operator-valued functions that can be naturally dilated. These in turn define wavelets by acting on impulses localized at any vertex. We have analyzed the localization of these wavelets in the vertex domain and showed that our multi-resolution produces functions that are indeed concentrated at will around a specified vertex. Our theory allowed us to construct an equivalent of the continuous wavelet transform but also discrete wavelet frames.

Computing the spectral decomposition can however be numerically expensive for large graphs. We have shown that, by approximating the spectrum of the wavelet generating operator with polynomial expansions, applying the forward wavelet transform and its transpose can be approximated through iterated applications of the graph Laplacian. Since in many cases the graph Laplacian is sparse, this results in a very fast algorithm. Our implementation also uses recurrence relations for computing polynomial expansions, which results in even faster algorithms. Finally, we have proved how numerical errors are precisely controlled by the properties of the desired spectral graph wavelets. Our algorithms have been implemented in a Matlab toolbox that will be released in parallel to the main theoretical article [J4]. We also plan to include this toolbox in the SMALL project numerical platform.

We now foresee many applications. On one hand we will use non-local graph wavelets constructed from the set of patches in an image (or even an audio signal) to perform de-noising or in general restoration. An interesting aspect in this case, would be to understand how wavelets estimated from corrupted signals deviate from clean wavelets. In a totally different direction, we will also explore the applications of spectral graph wavelets constructed from brain connectivity graphs obtained from whole brain tractography. Our preliminary results show that graph wavelets yield a representation that is very well adapted to how the information flows in the brain along neuronal structures.



::::Library:Mail Downloads:PV-report.rtfd:Pasted Graphic.pdf


A set of graph wavelets constructed from brain connectivity data. As the scale parameter gets higher, the wavelet grows along neuronal pathways connecting brain areas.



Publications conjointes

Congrès avec actes

[P1] R. Gribonval, B. Mailhé, H. Rauhut, K. Schnass, P. Vandergheynst. Average case analysis of multichannel thresholding. Proc. IEEE ICASSP’07.

[P2] R. Gribonval, B. Mailhé, H. Rauhut, K. Schnass & P. Vandergheynst. Average case of multichannel sparse approximations using p-thresholding. Proc. SPIE Symposium on Optical Engineering and its Applications, San Diego, Sept. 2007.

[P3] R. Gribonval and K. Schnass, Some Recovery Conditions for Basis Learning by L1-Minimization, Proc. IEEE International Symposium on Communications, Control and Signal Processing (ISCCSP 2008), Malta.

[P4] A. Llagostera Casanovas, G. Monaci, P. Vandergheynst and R. Gribonval, Blind Audiovisual Separation based on Redundant Representations, Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing, 2008.

[P5] B. Mailhé, S. Lesage, R. Gribonval, P. Vandergheynst, F. Bimbot. Shift-invariant dictionary learning for sparse representations: extending K-SVD, EUSIPCO'08.

[P6] R. Gribonval and K. Schnass, Dictionary Identifiability from Few Training Samples, Proc. EUSIPCO'08, 2008.

[P7] R. Gribonval, K. Schnass. Basis identification from Random Sparse Samples. Proc. SPARS’09 (2009).

[P8] B. Mailhé, M. Lemay, P. Vandergheynst, J.-M. Vesin, R. Gribonval, F. Bimbot, Dictionary learning for the sparse modelling of atrial fibrillation in ECG signals. Proc. IEEE-ICASSP'09.

[P9] B. Mailhé, R. Gribonval, P. Vandergheynst, F. Bimbot, A LOw Complexity Orthogonal Matching Pursuit algorithm for sparse signal approximation with shift-invariant dictionaries, Proc. IEEE-ICASSP'09.

[P10] F.M.  Naini, R. Gribonval, L. Jacques and P. Vandergheynst. Compressive Sampling of Pulse Trains : Spread the Spectrum ! Proc. IEEE-ICASSP'09.

Journaux à comité de lecture

[J1] G. Monaci, P. Jost, P. Vandergheynst, B. Mailhé, S. Lesage, R. Gribonval. Learning Multi-Modal Dictionaries. IEEE Trans. on Image Processing, Vol. 16, n° 9, pp. 2272-2283, Sept. 2007.

[J2] R. Gribonval, H. Rauhut, K. Schnass and P. Vandergheynst, Atoms of all channels, unite! Average case analysis of multi-channel sparse recovery using greedy algorithms, J. Fourier Analysis and Applications, 14 (2008), pp.655-687.

[J3] A. Llagostera Casanovas, G. Monaci, P. Vandergheynst and R. Gribonval. Sparsity and Synchrony in Blind Audio-Visual Source Separation. To appear in IEEE Trans. on Image Processing.

[J4] D. K. Hammond, R. Gribonval, P. Vandergheynst. Wavelets on Graph via Spectral Theory. Submitted to Applied and Computational Harmonic Analysis.

[J5] K. Schnass and R. Gribonval. Dictionary Identification - Sparse Matrix-Factorisation via \$\ell_1\$-Minimisation. Submitted to IEEE Transactions on Information Theory.



 [C1] ICASSP 2007, Hawaii, April 2007

[C2] AMS von Neumann Symposium on Sparse Representation and High Dimensional Geometry, Snowbird, Utah, July 2007.

[C3] Rencontre sur le Traitement Mathématique des Images, Centre International de rencontres mathématiques, Marseilles, Sept. 2007.

[C4] SPIE, San Diego, Sept. 2007

[C5] CAMSAP, Virgin Islands, Dec. 2007

[C6] ISCCSP 2008, Malte, March 2008

[C7] ICASSP 2008, Las Vegas, April 2008

[C8] EUSIPCO 2008, Lausanne, August 2008

[C9] SIMAI 2008, Rome, September 2008

[C10] Workshop "sparsity and large inverse problems" Cambridge, December 2008

[C11] SPARS 2009, St-Malo, April 2009

[C12] ICASSP 2009, Taipeh, April 2009

[C13] Solvay Workshop on "sparsity, learning and computation", Solvay Institute, Brussels, 2009

[C14] EPSRC Capstone Conference, Warwick, UK, July 2009

[C15] Workshop "dictionary of atoms : new trends in advanced brain signal processing", Montreal, Canada, 2009

Organisations de rencontres / colloques

One-day workshop at IRISA on “sparse representations of signals and images” was organized on October 24th 2007 in conjunction with Remi Gribonval HDR defense

One-day meeting on « Sparsity » in the framework of the ISIS working group (April 17th, 2008) co-organised by Rémi Gribonval and Laure Blanc-Feraud (Ariana Group, I3S, Nice). This event took place in Telecom Paris Tech and gathered more than 100 participants.

One-day meeting coorganised with the TEXMEX and TEMICS groups at IRISA, on Mai 29th 2008. The topic of the day was “Images, databases, random projections and sparsity”. Pierre Vandergheynst (EPFL), Laurent Amsaleg (IRISA/TEXMEX) and Joaquin Zepeda (IRISA/TEMICS) gave presentations followed by discussions on the links between sparse representations, database indexing and random projections.

SPARS’09 Workshop, St-Malo, France, April 6-9, 2009
SPARS'09 workshop was held at the beginning of April 2009 in St-Malo. It gathered about 90 participants. Beside 28 oral communications and 28 poster presentations, 4 invited talks were given by Anna Gilbert (Univ. Michigan, USA), Justin Romberg (Georgia Tech., USA), Mark Plumbley (Queen Mary Univ, London, UK) and Ron de Vore (Member of the USA Academy of Science, Texas A&M Univ., USA). These invited talks covered a number of selected topics such as deterministic and probabilistic dimensionality reduction in large spaces, compressed sensing, sparse approaches for audio information representation and large-scale process modeling. Rémi Gribonval was the General Chairman of the workshop. Pierre Vandergheynst was a member of the Programme Committee.

Projet européen FET-Open (FP7) SMALL

The SMALL (Sparse Models, Algorithms and Learning for Large-scale data) project has been selected in the Fall 2008 in the framework of the European FET-Open programme, and started in the Spring 2009. Beside INRIA (coordinator, C/° Rémi Gribonval)  and EPFL (C/° Pierre Vandergheynst),  the partners are : Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London (C/° Mark Plumbley), University of Edinburgh, UK, (C/° Mike Davies) and The Technion, Israël, (C/° Miki Elad). The objective of the SMALL project is to develop a new foundational framework for processing signals, using adaptive sparse structured representations. SMALL will explore new generations of provably good methods to obtain inherently data-driven sparse models, able to cope with large-scale and complicated data much beyond state-of-the-art sparse signal modeling. The project will develop a radically new foundational theoretical framework for the dictionary-learning problem, and scalable algorithms for the training of structured dictionaries



© INRIA - mise à jour le 08/07/2009