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Splines Are Universal Solutions of Linear Inverse Problems with Generalized-TV Regularization

M. Unser, J. Fageot, J.P. Ward

SIAM Review, in press.

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Splines come in a variety of flavors that can be characterized in terms of some differential operator L. The simplest piecewise-constant model corresponds to the derivative operator. Likewise, one can extend the traditional notion of total variation by considering more general operators than the derivative. This results in the definition of a generalized total variation semi-norm and of its corresponding native space, which is further identified as the direct sum of two Banach spaces. We then prove that the minimization of the generalized total variation (gTV), subject to some arbitrary (convex) consistency constraints on the linear measurements of the signal, admits nonuniform L-spline solutions with fewer knots than the number of measurements. This shows that nonuniform splines are universal solutions of continuous-domain linear inverse problems with LASSO, L1, or total-variation-like regularization constraints. Remarkably, the type of spline is fully determined by the choice of L and does not depend on the actual nature of the measurements.

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