Active learning methods have been considered with increased interest in the statistical learning community. Initially developed within a classification framework, a lot of extensions are now being proposed to handle multimedia applications. This paper provides algorithms within a statistical framework to extend active learning for online content-based image retrieval (CBIR). The classification framework is presented with experiments to compare several powerful classification techniques in this information retrieval context. Focusing on interactive methods, active learning strategy is then described. The limitations of this approach for CBIR are emphasized before presenting our new active selection process RETIN. First, as any active method is sensitive to the boundary estimation between classes, the RETIN strategy carries out a boundary correction to make the retrieval process more robust. Second, the criterion of generalization error to optimize the active learning selection is modified to better represent the CBIR objective of database ranking. Third, a batch processing of images is proposed. Our strategy leads to a fast and efficient active learning scheme to retrieve sets of online images (query concept). Experiments on large databases show that the RETIN method performs well in comparison to several other active strategies.

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