Computing Consensus Curves

We consider the problem of extracting accurate average ant trajectories from many (possibly inaccurate) input trajectories contributed by citizen scientists. Although there are many generic software tools for motion tracking and specific ones for insect tracking, even untrained humans are much better at this task, provided a robust method to computing the average trajectories. We implemented and tested several local (one ant at a time) and global (all ants together) method. Our best performing algorithm uses a novel global method, based on finding edge-disjoint paths in an ant-interaction graph constructed from the input trajectories. The underlying optimization problem is a new and interesting variant of network flow. Even though the problem is NP-hard, we implemented two heuristics, which work very well in practice, outperforming all other approaches, including the best automated system.

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