Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Shape, Grouping and Recognition

A general framework for the fundamental problems of image segmentation, object recognition and scene analysis is the interpretation of an image in terms of a set of symbols and relations among them. Abstractly stated, image interpretation amounts to mapping an observed image, X to a set of symbols Y. Of particular interest are the symbols Y* that optimally explain the underlying image, as measured by a scoring function s that aims at distinguishing correct (consistent with human labellings) from incorrect interpretations:

Applying this framework requires (a) identifying which symbols and relations to use (b) learning a scoring function s from training data and (c) optimizing over Y in Eq.1.

One of the main themes of our work is the development of methods that jointly address (a,b,c) in a shape-grouping framework in order to reliably extract, describe, model and detect shape information from natural and medical images. A principal motivation for using a shape-based framework is the understanding that shape- and more generally, grouping- based representations can go all the way from image features to objects. Regarding aspect (a), image representation, we cater for the extraction of image features that respect the shape properties of image structures. Such features are typically constructed to be purely geometric (e.g. boundaries, symmetry axes, image segments), or appearance-based, such as image descriptors. The use of machine learning has been shown to facilitate the robust and efficient extraction of such features, while the grouping of local evidence is known to be necessary to disambiguate the potentially noisy local measurements. In our research we have worked on improving feature extraction, proposing novel blends of invariant geometric- and appearance- based features, as well as grouping algorithms that allow for the efficient construction of optimal assemblies of local features.

Regarding aspect (b) we have worked on learning scoring functions for detection with deformable models that can exploit the developed low-level representations, while also being amenable to efficient optimization. Our works in this direction build on the graph-based framework to construct models that reflect the shape properties of the structure being modeled. We have used discriminative learning to exploit boundary- and symmetry-based representations for the construction of hierarchical models for shape detection, while for medical images we have developed methods for the end-to-end discriminative training of deformable contour models that combine low-level descriptors with contour-based organ boundary representations.

Regarding aspect (c) we have developed algorithms which implement top-down/bottom-up computation both in deterministic and stochastic optimization. The main idea is that ‘bottom-up’, image-based guidance is necessary for efficient detection, while ‘top-down’, object-based knowledge can disambiguate and help reliably interpret a given image; a combination of both modes of operation is necessary to combine accuracy with efficiency. In particular we have developed novel techniques for object detection that employ combinatorial optimization tools (A* and Branch-and-Bound) to tame the combinatorial complexity, achieving a best-case performance that is logarithmic in the number of pixels.

In the long run we aim at scaling up shape-based methods to 3D detection and pose estimation and large-scale object detection. One aspect which seems central to this is the development of appropriate mid-level representations. This is a problem that has received increased interest lately in the 2D case and is relatively mature, but in 3D it has been pursued primarily through ad-hoc schemes. We anticipate that questions pertaining to part sharing in 3D will be addressed most successfully by relying on explicit 3D representations. On the one hand depth sensors, such as Microsoft’s Kinect, are now cheap enough to bring surface modeling and matching into the mainstream of computer vision - so these advances may be directly exploitable at test time for detection. On the other hand, even if we do not use depth information at test time, having 3D information can simplify the modeling task during training. In on-going work with collaborators we have started exploring combinations of such aspects, namely (i) the use of surface analysis tools to match surfaces from depth sensors (ii) using branch-and-bound for efficient inference in 3D space and (iii) groupwise-registration to build statistical 3D surface models. In the coming years we intend to pursue a tighter integration of these different directions for scalable 3D object recognition.