Physical objects, including still and moving images, sound/audio and text are transformed into more compact forms for identification and other purposes using a method unrelated to existing image-matching systems which rely on feature extraction. An auxiliary construct, preferably a warp grid, is associated with an object, and a series of transformations are imposed to generate a unique visual key for identification, comparisons, and other operations. Search methods are also disclosed for matching an unknown image to one previously represented in a visual key database. Broadly, a preferred search method sequentially examines candidate database images for their closeness of match in a sequential order determined by their a priori match probability. Thus, the most likely match candidate is examined first, the next most likely second, and so forth. With respect to the recognition of video sequences and other information streams, inventive holotropic stream recognition principles are deployed, wherein the statistics of the spatial distribution of warp grid points is used to generate index keys. The invention is applicable to various fields of endeavor, including governmental, scientific, industrial, commercial, and recreational object identification and information retrieval. Extensions of the technology are also disclosed to achieve a uniform distribution of objects over the database search, a consideration which is central to scalability. In particular, a generalized method has been developed based on reticle projection, which greatly enhances the uniformity of object distributions in the collected data Thus, whereas statistical criteria are used with respect to particular embodiments in transforming a construct associated with an image, audio, text or other representation, a reticle projection may alternatively be used in attribute transformation according to alternative embodiments of the invention.