Automatic segmentation of electron microscopy volumes
Latest commit 666cf5b Oct 23, 2012 @qedq qedq implements memory efficient VI computation; still a little slow could…
… be reimplemented in NP at some point

ray: segmentation of nD images

Ray is a python library for performance and evaluation of image segmentation, distributed under the open-source MIT license. It supports n-dimensional images (images, volumes, videos, videos of volumes...) and multiple channels per image.

Requirements (tested versions)

  • Python 2.x (2.6, 2.7)
  • numpy (1.5.1, 1.6.0)
  • Image (a.k.a. Python Imaging Library or PIL) (1.3.1)
  • networkx (1.4, 1.5, 1.6)
  • h5py (1.5.0)
  • scipy (0.7.0, 0.9.0, 0.10.0)

All of the above are included in the Enthought Python Distribution, so I would recommend you just install that if you can.


progressbar is in PyPi and trivial to install:

sudo easy_install progressbar

For vigra, you are on your own. It is used for the random forest classifier, but if you don't install it you can still use SVM or AdaBoost classifiers.


Well, there's nothing to install per se (distutils support coming at some point in the far future). Download the source and add whatever path you downloaded it to to your Python path.


The test coverage is rather tiny, but it is still a nice way to check you haven't completely screwed up your installation. From the Ray root directory, run python test/ to run some regression tests.



Suppose you have already trained a pixel level boundary detector, and want to perform mean agglomeration on it. This is the simplest form of agglomeration and was the initial design spec for Ray. Now:

from ray import imio, agglo, morpho
# prob is a numpy ndarray
# probabilities-* can be one file for 2D segmentation, or many files for 3D.
prob = imio.read_image_stack('probabilities-*.png') 
label_field = morpho.watershed(prob)
# Make the region adjacency graph (RAG)
g = agglo.Rag(label_field, prob)
threshold = 0.5
# agglomerate until the given threshold
# get the label field resulting from the agglomeration
seg = g.get_segmentation() 
# now agglomerate to completion and get the UCM
from numpy import inf
ucm = g.get_ucm()

An ultrametric contour map (UCM) can be thresholded to provide the segmentation at any threshold of agglomeration. (It may, however, result in a split when a segment becomes thinner than one pixel.)

The mean agglomeration may be too simple. What if we want to use the median? We can specify this with the merge_priority_function argument to the RAG constructor:

# merge by boundary median instead of mean
g = agglo.Rag(label_field, prob, merge_priority_function=agglo.boundary_median)

A user can specify their own merge priority function. A valid merge priority function is a callable Python object that takes a graph and two nodes from that graph as input, and returns a real number. (Technically, any object that satisfies the basic comparison operations, such as __lt__, will work.)

Learning agglomeration

A whole new set of tools is needed to apply machine learning to agglomeration. These are provided by the classify module, and built into the agglo.Rag class.

from ray import classify
gs = imio.read_h5_stack('gold-standard-segmentation.h5')
fm = classify.MomentsFeatureManager()
fh = classify.HistogramFeatureManager()
fc = classify.CompositeFeatureManager(children=[fm, fh])

A feature manager is a callable object that computes feature vectors from graph edges. The object has the following responsibilities, which it can inherit from classify.NullFeatureManager:

  • create a (possibly empty) feature cache on each edge and node, precomputing some of the calculations needed for feature computation;
  • maintain the feature cache throughout node merges during agglomeration;
  • compute the feature vector from the feature caches when called with the inputs of a graph and two nodes.

Feature managers can be chained through the classify.CompositeFeatureManager class.

We can then extract feature vectors from the graph as follows:

g = agglo.Rag(label_field, prob, feature_manager=fc)
n1, n2 = 1, 2
feature_vector = fc(g, n1, n2)

This gives us the rudimentary tools to do some machine learning, when combined with a labeling system. Given a gold standard segmentation (gs, above) assumed to be a correct segmentation of the image, do:

training_data, all_training_data = g.learn_agglomerate(gs, fc)

The training data is a tuple with four elements:

  • an nsamples x nfeatures numpy array with the feature vectors for each learned edge.
  • an nsamples x 4 numpy array with the associated lables for each edge: -1 for "correct merge", and +1 for "incorrect merge". The four columns are four different labeling systems. They mostly agree (and certainly do in the case of a perfect oversegmentation); using column 0 is fine for most purposes.
  • an nsamples x 2 numpy array of weights (VI and RI) associated with each learned edge, for weighted learning.
  • an nsamples x 2 numpy array of edge ids, the sample history during learning.

all_training_data is a list of such tuples, one for each training epoch. This will be ignored for this tutorial. Briefly, learning takes place by agglomerating while comparing the present segmentation to the gold standard. Once the volume has been fully agglomerated, learning starts over, which can result in repeated elements. training_data is the set of unique learning samples encountered over all epochs, while all_training_data is a list of the samples encountered in each epoch (including repeats).

Now that we have a training sample, we can train a classifier, such as classify.RandomForest, which is a wrapper of vigra.learning.RandomForest to match the classifier interface in scikits.learn:

features, labels, weights, history = training_data
rf = classify.RandomForest()
rf =, labels[:,0])

As seen above, the RF can be saved in HDF5 format for future use. It's easy to reload later:

rf = classify.RandomForest()

Let's use it right now though:

# use agglo.classifier_probability to create a closure over the feature map and
# classifier that satisfies the definition of a merge priority function.
learned_priority_function = agglo.classifier_probability(fc, rf)
test_prob = imio.read_image_stack('test-probabilities-*.png')
test_label_field = morpho.watershed(test_prob)
gtest = agglo.Rag(test_label_field, test_prob, learned_priority_function,
test_ucm = gtest.get_ucm()

It's probably a good idea to save the UCM for later:

imio.write_h5_stack(test_ucm, 'test-ucm.h5')

By default, imio puts datasets in the 'stack' group in the HDF5 file, but you can specify your own.

imio.write_h5_stack(test_ucm, 'test-ucm.h5', group='volume')

We have now done our first learned agglomeration. But how do we know how well we have done?


We can use the evaluate submodule to check our performance.

from ray import evaluate
from scipy.ndimage.measurements import label
t = imio.read_h5_stack('test-gold-standard.h5')
s = label(ucm_test < 0.5)[0]
# variation of information, including decomposition, and multiple thresholds
vi =, t)
svi = evaluate.split_vi(s, t)
vit = evaluate.vi_by_threshold(test_ucm, t)
# draw the split-vi plot
from matplotlib import pyplot as plt
plt.plot(vit[1], vit[2])
# rand index and adjusted rand index
ri = evaluate.rand_index(s, t)
ari = evaluate.adj_rand_index(s, t)
# Fowlkes-Mallows index
fm = evaluate.fm_index(s, t)
# pixel-wise precision-recall
pr = evaluate.pixel_wise_precision_recall(s, t)

That's a quick summary of the capabilities of Ray. There are of course many options under the hood, many of which are undocumented... Feel free to push me to update the documentation of your favorite function!