Modern digital technology has made it possible to manipulate multi-dimensional signals with systems that range from simple digital circuits to advanced parallel computers. The goal of this manipulation can be divided into three categories:

* Image Processing image in -> image out

* Image Analysis image in -> measurements out

* Image Understanding image in -> high-level description out

We will focus on the fundamental concepts of image processing. Space does not permit us to make more than a few introductory remarks about image analysis. Image understanding requires an approach that differs fundamentally from the theme of this book. Further, we will restrict ourselves to two-dimensional (2D) image processing although most of the concepts and techniques that are to be described can be extended easily to three or more dimensions. Readers interested in either greater detail than presented here or in other aspects of image processing are referred to

We begin with certain basic definitions. An image defined in the "real world" is considered to be a function of two real variables, for example, a(x,y) with a as the amplitude (e.g. brightness) of the image at the real coordinate position (x,y). An image may be considered to contain sub-images sometimes referred to as regions-of-interest, ROIs, or simply regions. This concept reflects the fact that images frequently contain collections of objects each of which can be the basis for a region. In a sophisticated image processing system it should be possible to apply specific image processing operations to selected regions. Thus one part of an image (region) might be processed to suppress motion blur while another part might be processed to improve color rendition.

The amplitudes of a given image will almost always be either real numbers or integer numbers. The latter is usually a result of a quantization process that converts a continuous range (say, between 0 and 100%) to a discrete number of levels. In certain image-forming processes, however, the signal may involve photon counting which implies that the amplitude would be inherently quantized. In other image forming procedures, such as magnetic resonance imaging, the direct physical measurement yields a complex number in the form of a real magnitude and a real phase. For the remainder of this book we will consider amplitudes as reals or integers unless otherwise indicated.