Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
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Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
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Section: Research Program

Action Recognition

Participants : François Brémond, Antitza Dantcheva, Monique Thonnat.

Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Cognitive Vision Systems


Due to the recent development of high processing units, such as GPU, this is now possible to extract meaningful features directly from videos (e.g. video volume) to recognize reliably short actions. Action Recognition benefits also greatly from the huge progress made recently in Machine Learning (e.g. Deep Learning), especially for the study of human behavior. For instance, Action Recognition enables to measure objectively the behavior of humans by extracting powerful features characterizing their everyday activities, their emotion, eating habits and lifestyle, by learning models from a large number of data from a variety of sensors, to improve and optimize for example, the quality of life of people suffering from behavior disorders. However, Smart Homes and Partner Robots have been well advertised but remain laboratory prototypes, due to the poor capability of automated systems to perceive and reason about their environment. A hard problem is for an automated system to cope 24/7 with the variety and complexity of the real world. Another challenge is to extract people fine gestures and subtle facial expressions to better analyze behavior disorders, such as anxiety or apathy. Taking advantage of what is currently studied for self-driving cars or smart retails, there is a large avenue to design ambitious approaches for the healthcare domain. In particular, the advance made with Deep Learning algorithms has already enabled to recognize complex activities, such as cooking interactions with instruments, and from this analysis to differentiate healthy people from the ones suffering from dementia.

To address these issues, we propose to tackle several challenges:

Action recognition in the wild

The current Deep Learning techniques are mostly developed to work on few clipped videos, which have been recorded with students performing a limited set of predefined actions in front of a camera with high resolution. However, real life scenarios include actions performed in a spontaneous manner by older people (including people interactions with their environment or with other people), from different viewpoints, with varying framerate, partially occluded by furniture at different locations within an apartment depicted through long untrimmed videos. Therefore, a new dedicated dataset should be collected in a real-world setting to become a public benchmark video dataset and to design novel algorithms for ADL activity recognition. A special attention should be taken to anonymize the videos.

Attention mechanisms for action recognition

Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and video-surveillance activities are different from internet activities (e.g. Sports, Movies, YouTube), as they may have very similar context (e.g. same background kitchen) with high intra-variation (different people performing the same action in different manners), but in the same time low inter-variation, similar ways to perform two different actions (e.g. eating and drinking a glass of water). Consequently, fine-grained actions are badly recognized. So, we will design novel attention mechanisms for action recognition, for the algorithm being able to focus on a discriminative part of the person conducting the action. For instance, we will study attention algorithms, which could focus on the most appropriate body parts (e.g. full body, right hand). In particular, we plan to design a soft mechanism, learning the attention weights directly on the feature map of a 3DconvNet, a powerful convolutional network, which takes as input a batch of videos.

Action detection for untrimmed videos

Many approaches have been proposed to solve the problem of action recognition in short clipped 2D videos, which achieved impressive results with hand-crafted and deep features. However, these approaches cannot address real life situations, where cameras provide online and continuous video streams in applications such as robotics, video surveillance, and smart-homes. Here comes the importance of action detection to help recognizing and localizing each action happening in long videos. Action detection can be defined as the ability to localize starting and ending of each human action happening in the video, in addition to recognizing each action label. There have been few action detection algorithms designed for untrimmed videos, which are based on either sliding window, temporal pooling or frame-based labeling. However, their performance is too low to address real-word datasets. A first task consists in benchmarking the already published approaches to study their limitations on novel untrimmed video datasets, recorded following real-world settings. A second task could be to propose a new mechanism to improve either 1) the temporal pooling directly from the 3DconvNet architecture using for instance Temporal Convolution Networks (TCNs) or 2) frame-based labeling with a clustering technique (e.g. using Fisher Vectors) to discover the sub-activities of interest.

View invariant action recognition

The performance of current approaches strongly relies on the used camera angle: enforcing that the camera angle used in testing is the same (or extremely close to) as the camera angle used in training, is necessary for the approach performs well. On the contrary, the performance drops when a different camera view-point is used. Therefore, we aim at improving the performance of action recognition algorithms by relying on 3D human pose information. For the extraction of the 3D pose information, several open-source algorithms can be used, such as openpose or videopose3D (from CMU or Facebook research, Also, other algorithms extracting 3d meshes can be used. To generate extra views, Generative Adversial Network (GAN) can be used together with the 3D human pose information to complete the training dataset from the missing view.

Uncertainty and action recognition

Another challenge is to combine the short-term actions recognized by powerful Deep Learning techniques with long-term activities defined by constraint-based descriptions and linked to user interest. To realize this objective, we have to compute the uncertainty (i.e. likelihood or confidence), with which the short-term actions are inferred. This research direction is linked to the next one, to Semantic Activity Recognition.