Effective image clustering based on human mental search

Image segmentation is one of the fundamental techniques in image analysis. One group of segmentation techniques is based on clustering principles, where association of image pixels is based on a similarity criterion. Conventional clustering algorithms, such as k-means, can be used for this purpose but have several drawbacks including dependence on initialisation conditions and a higher likelihood of converging to local rather than global optima. In this paper, we propose a clustering-based image segmentation method that is based on the human mental search (HMS) algorithm. HMS is a recent metaheuristic algorithm based on the manner of searching in the space of online auctions. In HMS, each candidate solution is called a bid, and the algorithm comprises three major stages: mental search, which explores the vicinity of a solution using Levy flight to find better solutions; grouping which places a set of candidate solutions into a group using a clustering algorithm; and moving bids toward promising solution areas. In our image clustering application, bids encode the cluster centres and we evaluate three different objective functions. In an extensive set of experiments, we compare the efficacy of our proposed approach with several state-of-the-art metaheuristic algorithms including a genetic algorithm, differential evolution, particle swarm optimisation, artificial bee colony algorithm, and harmony search. We assess the techniques based on a variety of metrics including the objective functions, a cluster validity index, as well as unsupervised and supervised image segmentation criteria. Moreover, we perform some tests in higher dimensions, and conduct a statistical analysis to compare our proposed method to its competitors. The obtained results clearly show that the proposed algorithm represents a highly effective approach to image clustering that outperforms other state-of-the-art techniques.