Opencv – Simple and fast method to compare images for similarity


I need a simple and fast way to compare two images for similarity. I.e. I want to get a high value if they contain exactly the same thing but may have some slightly different background and may be moved / resized by a few pixel.

(More concrete, if that matters: The one picture is an icon and the other picture is a subarea of a screenshot and I want to know if that subarea is exactly the icon or not.)

I have OpenCV at hand but I am still not that used to it.

One possibility I thought about so far: Divide both pictures into 10×10 cells and for each of those 100 cells, compare the color histogram. Then I can set some made up threshold value and if the value I get is above that threshold, I assume that they are similar.

I haven't tried it yet how well that works but I guess it would be good enough. The images are already pretty much similar (in my use case), so I can use a pretty high threshold value.

I guess there are dozens of other possible solutions for this which would work more or less (as the task itself is quite simple as I only want to detect similarity if they are really very similar). What would you suggest?

There are a few very related / similar questions about obtaining a signature/fingerprint/hash from an image:

Also, I stumbled upon these implementations which have such functions to obtain a fingerprint:

Some discussions about perceptual image hashes: here

A bit offtopic: There exists many methods to create audio fingerprints. MusicBrainz, a web-service which provides fingerprint-based lookup for songs, has a good overview in their wiki. They are using AcoustID now. This is for finding exact (or mostly exact) matches. For finding similar matches (or if you only have some snippets or high noise), take a look at Echoprint. A related SO question is here. So it seems like this is solved for audio. All these solutions work quite good.

A somewhat more generic question about fuzzy search in general is here. E.g. there is locality-sensitive hashing and nearest neighbor search.

Best Solution

Can the screenshot or icon be transformed (scaled, rotated, skewed ...)? There are quite a few methods on top of my head that could possibly help you:

  • Simple euclidean distance as mentioned by @carlosdc (doesn't work with transformed images and you need a threshold).
  • (Normalized) Cross Correlation - a simple metrics which you can use for comparison of image areas. It's more robust than the simple euclidean distance but doesn't work on transformed images and you will again need a threshold.
  • Histogram comparison - if you use normalized histograms, this method works well and is not affected by affine transforms. The problem is determining the correct threshold. It is also very sensitive to color changes (brightness, contrast etc.). You can combine it with the previous two.
  • Detectors of salient points/areas - such as MSER (Maximally Stable Extremal Regions), SURF or SIFT. These are very robust algorithms and they might be too complicated for your simple task. Good thing is that you do not have to have an exact area with only one icon, these detectors are powerful enough to find the right match. A nice evaluation of these methods is in this paper: Local invariant feature detectors: a survey.

Most of these are already implemented in OpenCV - see for example the cvMatchTemplate method (uses histogram matching): The salient point/area detectors are also available - see OpenCV Feature Detection.

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