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

Semantic Activity Recognition

Participants : François Brémond, Sabine Moisan, Monique Thonnat.

Activity Recognition, Scene Understanding, Computer Vision


Semantic activity recognition is a complex process where information is abstracted through four levels: signal (e.g. pixel, sound), perceptual features, physical objects and activities. The signal and the feature levels are characterized by strong noise, ambiguous, corrupted and missing data. The whole process of scene understanding consists in analyzing this information to bring forth pertinent insight of the scene and its dynamics while handling the low level noise. Moreover, to obtain a semantic abstraction, building activity models is a crucial point. A still open issue consists in determining whether these models should be given a priori or learned. Another challenge consists in organizing this knowledge in order to capitalize experience, share it with others and update it along with experimentation. To face this challenge, tools in knowledge engineering such as machine learning or ontology are needed.

Thus we work along the following research axes: high level understanding (to recognize the activities of physical objects based on high level activity models), learning (how to learn the models needed for activity recognition) and activity recognition and discrete event systems.

High Level Understanding

A challenging research axis is to recognize subjective activities of physical objects (i.e. human beings, animals, vehicles) based on a priori models and objective perceptual measures (e.g. robust and coherent object tracks).

To reach this goal, we have defined original activity recognition algorithms and activity models. Activity recognition algorithms include the computation of spatio-temporal relationships between physical objects. All the possible relationships may correspond to activities of interest and all have to be explored in an efficient way. The variety of these activities, generally called video events, is huge and depends on their spatial and temporal granularity, on the number of physical objects involved in the events, and on the event complexity (number of components constituting the event).

Concerning the modeling of activities, we are working towards two directions: the uncertainty management for representing probability distributions and knowledge acquisition facilities based on ontological engineering techniques. For the first direction, we are investigating classical statistical techniques and logical approaches. For the second direction, we built a language for video event modeling and a visual concept ontology (including color, texture and spatial concepts) to be extended with temporal concepts (motion, trajectories, events ...) and other perceptual concepts (physiological sensor concepts ...).

Learning for Activity Recognition

Given the difficulty of building an activity recognition system with a priori knowledge for a new application, we study how machine learning techniques can automate building or completing models at the perception level and at the understanding level.

At the understanding level, we are learning primitive event detectors. This can be done for example by learning visual concept detectors using SVMs (Support Vector Machines) with perceptual feature samples. An open question is how far can we go in weakly supervised learning for each type of perceptual concept (i.e. leveraging the human annotation task). A second direction is to learn typical composite event models for frequent activities using trajectory clustering or data mining techniques. We name composite event a particular combination of several primitive events.

Activity Recognition and Discrete Event Systems

The previous research axes are unavoidable to cope with the semantic interpretations. However they tend to let aside the pure event driven aspects of scenario recognition. These aspects have been studied for a long time at a theoretical level and led to methods and tools that may bring extra value to activity recognition, the most important being the possibility of formal analysis, verification and validation.

We have thus started to specify a formal model to define, analyze, simulate, and prove scenarios. This model deals with both absolute time (to be realistic and efficient in the analysis phase) and logical time (to benefit from well-known mathematical models providing re-usability, easy extension, and verification). Our purpose is to offer a generic tool to express and recognize activities associated with a concrete language to specify activities in the form of a set of scenarios with temporal constraints. The theoretical foundations and the tools being shared with Software Engineering aspects.

The results of the research performed in perception and semantic activity recognition (first and second research directions) produce new techniques for scene understanding and contribute to specify the needs for new software architectures (third research direction).