Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Computer Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Sudeep Sarkar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sanjukta Bhanja, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rangachar Kasturi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Miguel A. Labrador, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eric Maxwell, Ph.D.


Biometrics, Unconstrained Ear Recognition, Handcrafted Features, Learned Features, Convolutional Neural Network


A number of researchers have shown that ear recognition is a viable alternative to more common biometrics such as fingerprint, face and iris because the ear is relatively stable over time, the ear is non-invasive to capture, the ear is expressionless, and both the ear’s geometry and shape have significant variation among individuals. Researchers have used different approaches to enhance ear recognition. Some researchers have improved upon existing algorithms, some have developed algorithms from scratch to assist with recognizing individuals by ears, and some researchers have taken algorithms tried and tested for another purpose, i.e., face recognition, and applied them to ear recognition. These approaches have resulted in a number of state-of-the-art effective methods to identify individuals by ears. However, most ear recognition research has been done using ear images that were captured in an ideal setting: ear images have near perfect lighting for image quality, ears are in the same position for each subject, and ears are without earrings, hair occlusions, or anything else that could block viewing of the entire ear.

In order for ear recognition to be practical, current approaches must be improved. Ear recognition must move beyond ideal settings and demonstrate effectiveness in an unconstrained environment reflective of real world conditions. Ear recognition approaches must be scalable to handle large groups of people. And, ear recognition should demonstrate effectiveness across a diverse population.

This dissertation advances ear recognition from ideal settings to real world settings. We devised an ear recognition framework that outperformed state-of-the-art recognition approaches using the most challenging sets of publicly available ear images and the most voluminous set of unconstrained ear images that we are aware of. We developed a Convolutional Neural Network-based solution for ear normalization and description, we designed a two-stage landmark detector, and we fused learned and handcrafted descriptors. Using our framework, we identified some individuals that are wearing earrings and that have other occlusions, such as hair. The results suggest that our framework can be a gateway for identification of individuals in real world conditions.