Despite the fact that complex visual scenes contain multiple, overlapping objects, people perform object recognition with ease and accuracy. One operation that facilitates recognition is an early segmentation process in which features of objects are grouped and labeled according to which object they belong. Current computational systems that perform this operation are based on predefined grouping heuristics. We describe a system called MAGIC that learns how to group features based on a set of presegmented examples. In many cases, MAGIC discovers grouping heuristics similar to those previously proposed, but it also has the capability of finding nonintuitive structural regularities in images. Grouping is performed by a relaxation network that attempts to dynamically bind related features. Features transmit a complex-valued signal (amplitude and phase) to one another; binding can thus be represented by phase locking related features. MAGIC's training procedure is a generalization of recurrent backpropagation to complex-valued units.

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