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Institute Talks

Learning to Act with Confidence

Talk
  • 23 October 2018 • 12:00 13:00
  • Andreas Krause
  • MPI-IS Tübingen, N0.002

Actively acquiring decision-relevant information is a key capability of intelligent systems, and plays a central role in the scientific process. In this talk I will present research from my group on this topic at the intersection of statistical learning, optimization and decision making. In particular, I will discuss how statistical confidence bounds can guide data acquisition in a principled way to make effective and reliable decisions in a variety of complex domains. I will also discuss several applications, ranging from autonomously guiding wetlab experiments in protein function optimization to safe exploration in robotics.

Control Systems for a Surgical Robot on the Space Station

IS Colloquium
  • 23 October 2018 • 16:30 17:30
  • Chris Macnab
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

As part of a proposed design for a surgical robot on the space station, my research group has been asked to look at controls that can provide literally surgical precision. Due to excessive time delay, we envision a system with a local model being controlled by a surgeon while the remote system on the space station follows along in a safe manner. Two of the major design considerations that come into play for the low-level feedback loops on the remote side are 1) the harmonic drives in a robot will cause excessive vibrations in a micro-gravity environment unless active damping strategies are employed and 2) when interacting with a human tissue environment the robot must apply smooth control signals that result in precise positions and forces. Thus, we envision intelligent strategies that utilize nonlinear, adaptive, neural-network, and/or fuzzy control theory as the most suitable. However, space agencies, or their engineering sub-contractors, typically provide gain and phase margin characteristics as requirements to the engineers involved in a control system design, which are normally associated with PID or other traditional linear control schemes. We are currently endeavouring to create intelligent controls that have guaranteed gain and phase margins using the Cerebellar Model Articulation Controller.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker

Artificial haptic intelligence for human-machine systems

IS Colloquium
  • 24 October 2018 • 11:00 12:00
  • Veronica J. Santos
  • 5H7 at MPI-IS in Stuttgart

The functionality of artificial manipulators could be enhanced by artificial “haptic intelligence” that enables the identification of object features via touch for semi-autonomous decision-making and/or display to a human operator. This could be especially useful when complementary sensory modalities, such as vision, are unavailable. I will highlight past and present work to enhance the functionality of artificial hands in human-machine systems. I will describe efforts to develop multimodal tactile sensor skins, and to teach robots how to haptically perceive salient geometric features such as edges and fingertip-sized bumps and pits using machine learning techniques. I will describe the use of reinforcement learning to teach robots goal-based policies for a functional contour-following task: the closure of a ziplock bag. Our Contextual Multi-Armed Bandits approach tightly couples robot actions to the tactile and proprioceptive consequences of the actions, and selects future actions based on prior experiences, the current context, and a functional task goal. Finally, I will describe current efforts to develop real-time capabilities for the perception of tactile directionality, and to develop models for haptically locating objects buried in granular media. Real-time haptic perception and decision-making capabilities could be used to advance semi-autonomous robot systems and reduce the cognitive burden on human teleoperators of devices ranging from wheelchair-mounted robots to explosive ordnance disposal robots.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker

Artificial haptic intelligence for human-machine systems

IS Colloquium
  • 25 October 2018 • 11:00 11:00
  • Veronica J. Santos
  • N2.025 at MPI-IS in Tübingen

The functionality of artificial manipulators could be enhanced by artificial “haptic intelligence” that enables the identification of object features via touch for semi-autonomous decision-making and/or display to a human operator. This could be especially useful when complementary sensory modalities, such as vision, are unavailable. I will highlight past and present work to enhance the functionality of artificial hands in human-machine systems. I will describe efforts to develop multimodal tactile sensor skins, and to teach robots how to haptically perceive salient geometric features such as edges and fingertip-sized bumps and pits using machine learning techniques. I will describe the use of reinforcement learning to teach robots goal-based policies for a functional contour-following task: the closure of a ziplock bag. Our Contextual Multi-Armed Bandits approach tightly couples robot actions to the tactile and proprioceptive consequences of the actions, and selects future actions based on prior experiences, the current context, and a functional task goal. Finally, I will describe current efforts to develop real-time capabilities for the perception of tactile directionality, and to develop models for haptically locating objects buried in granular media. Real-time haptic perception and decision-making capabilities could be used to advance semi-autonomous robot systems and reduce the cognitive burden on human teleoperators of devices ranging from wheelchair-mounted robots to explosive ordnance disposal robots.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Adam Spiers

TBA

IS Colloquium
  • 28 January 2019 • 3pm 4pm
  • Florian Marquardt

Organizers: Matthias Bauer

  • Oren Freifeld

Three-dimensional object shape is commonly represented in terms of deformations of a triangular mesh from an exemplar shape. In particular, statistical generative models of human shape deformation are widely used in computer vision, graphics, ergonomics, and anthropometry. Existing statistical models, however, are based on a Euclidean representation of shape deformations. In contrast, we argue that shape has a manifold structure: For example, averaging the shape deformations for two people does not necessarily yield a meaningful shape deformation, nor does the Euclidean difference of these two deformations provide a meaningful measure of shape dissimilarity. Consequently, we define a novel manifold for shape representation, with emphasis on body shapes, using a new Lie group of deformations. This has several advantages.

First, we define triangle deformations exactly, removing non-physical deformations and redundant degrees of freedom common to previous methods. Second, the Riemannian structure of Lie Bodies enables a more meaningful definition of body shape similarity by measuring distance between bodies on the manifold of body shape deformations. Third, the group structure allows the valid composition of deformations.

This is important for models that factor body shape deformations into multiple causes or represent shape as a linear combination of basis shapes. Similarly, interpolation between two mesh deformations results in a meaningful third deformation. Finally body shape variation is modeled using statistics on manifolds. Instead of modeling Euclidean shape variation with Principal Component Analysis we capture shape variation on the manifold using Principal Geodesic Analysis. Our experiments show consistent visual and quantitative advantages of Lie Bodies over traditional Euclidean models of shape deformation and our representation can be easily incorporated into existing methods. This project is part of a larger effort that brings together statistics and geometry to model statistics on manifolds.

Our research on manifold-valued statistics addresses the problem of modeling statistics in curved feature spaces. We try to find the geometrically most natural representations that respect the constraints; e.g. by modeling the data as belonging to a Lie group or a Riemannian manifold. We take a geometric approach as this keeps the focus on good distance measures, which are essential for good statistics. I will also present some recent unpublished results related to statistics on manifolds with broad application.


  • Cordelia Schmid

We, first, address the problems of large scale image classification. We present and evaluate different ways of aggregating local image descriptors into a vector and show that the Fisher kernel achieves better performance than the reference bag-of-visual words approach for any given vector dimension. We show and interpret the importance of an appropriate vector normalization.

Furthermore, we discuss how to learn given a large number of classes and images with stochastic gradient descent and show results on ImageNet10k. We, then, present a weakly supervised approach for learning human actions modeled as interactions between humans and objects.

Our approach is human-centric: we first localize a human in the image and then determine the object relevant for the action and its spatial relation with the human. The model is learned automatically from a set of still images annotated (only) with the action label.

Finally, we present work on learning object detectors from realworld web videos known only to contain objects of a target class. We propose a fully automatic pipeline that localizes objects in a set of videos of the class and learns a detector for it. The approach extracts candidate spatio-temporal tubes based on motion segmentation and then selects one tube per video jointly over all videos.


  • Pradeep Krishna Yarlagadda

The grand goal of Computer Vision is to generate an automatic description of an image based on its visual content. Category level object detection is an important building block towards such capability. The first part of this talk deals with three established object detection techniques in Computer Vision, their shortcomings and how they are improved. i) Hough Voting methods efficiently handle the high complexity of multi-scale, category-level object detection in cluttered scenes.

However, the primary weakness of this approach is that mutually dependent local observations independently vote for intrinsically global object properties such as object scale. We model the feature dependencies by presenting an objective function that combines various intimately related problems in Hough Voting. ii) Shape is a highly prominent characteristic of objects that human vision utilizes for detecting objects. However, shape poses significant challenges for object detection in cluttered scenes: Object form is an emergent property that cannot be perceived locally but becomes available only once the whole object has been detected. Thus we address the detection of objects and assembling of their shape simultaneously in a Max-Margin Multiple Instance Learning framework, while avoiding fragile bottom-up grouping in query images altogether. iii) Chamfer matching is a widely used technique for detecting objects because of its speed. However, it treats objects as being a mere sum of the distance transformation of all their contour pixels. Also, spurious matches in background clutter is a huge problem for chamfer matching. We address these two issues by a) applying a discriminative approach to distance transformation computation in chamfer matching and b) estimating the accidentalness of a foreground template match by a small dictionary of simple background contours.

The second part of the talk explores the question: what insights can automatic object detection and intra-category object relationships bring to art historians ? It turns out that techniques from Computer Vision have helped the art historians in discovering different artistic workshops within an Upper German manuscript, understanding the variations of art within a particular school of design and studying the transitions across artistic styles by 1-d ordering of objects. Obtaining such insights manually is a tedious task and Computer Vision made the job of art historians easier.

Related Publications:

1. Pradeep Yarlagadda and Björn Ommer From Meaningful Contours to Discriminative Object Shape, ECCV 2012.

2. Pradeep Yarlagadda, Angela Eigenstetter and Björn Ommer Learning Discriminative Chamfer Regularization, BMVC 2012.

3. Pradeep Yarlagadda, Antonio Monroy and Björn Ommer Voting by Grouping Dependent Parts, ECCV 2010.

4. Pradeep Yarlagadda, Antonio Monroy, Bernd Carque and Björn Ommer Recognition and Analysis of Objects in Medieval Images, ACCV (e-heritage) 2010.

5. Pradeep Yarlagadda, Antonio Monroy, Bernd Carque and Björn Ommer Top-down Analysis of Low-level Object Relatedness Leading to Semantic Understanding of Medieval Image Collections, Computer Vision and Image Analysis of art SPIE, 2010.


  • Andreas Geiger

Navigating a car safely through complex environments is considered a relatively easy task for humans. Computer algorithms, however, can't nearly match human performance and often rely on 3D laser scanners or detailed maps. The reason for this is that the level and accuracy of current computer vision and scene understanding algorithms is still far from that of a human being. In this talk I will argue that pushing these limits requires solving a set of core computer vision problems, ranging from low-level tasks (stereo, optical flow) to high-level problems (object detection, 3D scene understanding).

First, I will introduce the KITTI datasets and benchmarks with accurate ground truth for evaluating stereo, optical flow, SLAM and 3D object detection/tracking on realistic video sequences. Results from state-of-the-art algorithms reveal that methods ranking high on established datasets such as Middlebury perform below average when being moved outside the laboratory to the real world.

Second, I will propose a novel generative model for 3D scene understanding that is able to reason jointly about the scene layout (topology and geometry of streets) as well as the location and orientation of objects. By using context from this model, performance of state-of-the-art object detectors in terms of estimating object orientation can be significantly increased.

Finally, I will give an outlook on how prior information in form of large-scale community-driven maps (OpenStreetMap) can be used in the context of 3D scene understanding.


  • Stefan Roth

Markov random fields (MRFs) have found widespread use as models of natural image and scene statistics. Despite progress in modeling image properties beyond gradient statistics with high-order cliques, and learning image models from example data, existing MRFs only exhibit a limited ability of actually capturing natural image statistics.

In this talk I will present recent work that investigates this limitation of previous filter-based MRF models, including Fields of Experts (FoEs). We found that these limitations are due to inadequacies in the leaning procedure and suggest various modifications to address them. These "secrets of FoE learning" allow training more suitable potential functions, whose shape approaches that of a Dirac-delta function, as well as models with larger and more filters.

Our experiments not only indicate a substantial improvement of the models' ability to capture relevant statistical properties of natural images, but also demonstrate a significant performance increase in a denoising application to levels previously unattained by generative approaches. This is joint work with Qi Gao.


  • Hedvig Kjellström

The great majority of object analysis methods are based on visual object properties - objects are categorized according to how they appear in images. Visual appearance is measured in terms of image features (e.g., SIFTs) extracted from images or video. However, besides appearance, objects also have many properties that can be of interest, e.g., for a robot who wants to employ them in activities: Temperature, weight, surface softness, and also the functionalities or affordances of the object, i.e., how it is intended to be used. One example, recently addressed in the vision community, are chairs. Chairs can look vastly different, but have one thing in common: they afford sitting. At the Computer Vision and Active Perception Lab at KTH, we study the problem of inferring non-observable object properties in a number of ways. In this presentation I will describe some of this work.


  • Anuj Srivastava

Shape analysis and modeling of 2D and 3D objects has important applications in many branches of science and engineering. The general goals in shape analysis include: derivation of efficient shape metrics, computation of shape templates, representation of dominant shape variability in a shape class, and development of probability models that characterize shape variation within and across classes. While past work on shape analysis is dominated by point representations -- finite sets of ordered or triangulated points on objects' boundaries -- the emphasis has lately shifted to continuous formulations.

The shape analysis of parametrized curves and surfaces introduces an additional shape invariance, the re-parametrization group, in additional to the standard invariants of rigid motions and global scales. Treating re-parametrization as a tool for registration of points across objects, we incorporate this group in shape analysis, in the same way orientation is handled in Procrustes analysis. For shape analysis of parametrized curves, I will describe an elastic Riemannian metric and a mathematical representation, called square-root-velocity-function (SRVF), that allows optimal registration and analysis using simple tools.

This framework provides proper metrics, geodesics, and sample statistics of shapes. These sample statistics are further useful in statistical modeling of shapes in different shape classes. Then, I will describe some preliminary extensions of these ideas to shape analysis of parametrized surfaces, I will demonstrate these ideas using applications from medical image analysis, protein structure analysis, 3D face recognition, and human activity recognition in videos.


  • Edward H. Adelson

Abstract: We can modify the optical properties of surfaces by “coating” them with a micron-thin membrane supported by an elastomeric gel. Using an opaque, matte membrane, we can make reflected light micrographs with a distinctive SEM-like appearance. These have modest magnification (e.g., 50X), but they reveal fine surface details not normally seen with an optical microscope.

The system, which we call “GelSight,” removes optical complexities such as specular reflection, albedo, and subsurface scattering, and isolates the shading information that signals 3D shape. One can then see the topography of optically challenging subjects like sandpaper, machined metal, and living human skin. In addition, one can capture 3D surface geometry through photometric stereo. This leads to a non-destructive contact-based optical profilometer that is simple, fast, and compact.


  • Edward H. Adelson

Human can easily see 3D shape from single 2D images, exploiting multiple kinds of information. This has given rise to multiple subfields (in both human vision and computer vision) devoted to the study of shape-from-shading, shape-from-texture, shape-from-contours, and so on.

The proposed algorithms for each type of shape-from-x remain specialized and fragile (in contrast with the flexibility and robustness of human vision). Recent work in graphics and psychophysics has demonstrated the importance of local orientation structure in conveying 3D shape. This information is fairly stable and reliable, even when a given shape is rendered in multiple styles (including non-photorealistic styles such as line drawings.)

We have developed an exemplar-based system (which we call Shape Collage) that learns to associate image patches with corresponding 3D shape patches. We train it with synthetic images of “blobby” objects rendered in various ways, including solid texture, Phong shading, and line drawings. Given a new image, it finds the best candidate scene patches and assembles them into a coherent interpretation of the object shape.

Our system is the first that can retrieve the shape of naturalistic objects from line drawings. The same system, without modification, works for shape-from-texture and can also get shape from shading, even with non-Lambertian surfaces. Thus disparate types of image information can be processed by a single mechanism to extract 3D shape. Collaborative work with Forrester Cole, Phillip Isola, Fredo Durand, and William Freeman.


  • E.J. Chichilnisky

A central aspect of visual processing in the retina is the existence of nonlinear subunits within the receptive fields of retinal ganglion cells. These subunits have been implicated in visual computations such as segregation of object motion from background motion. However, relatively little is known about the spatial structure of subunits and its emergence from nonlinear interactions in the interneuron circuitry of the retina.

We used physiological measurements of functional circuitry in the isolated primate retina at single-cell resolution, combined with novel computational approaches, to explore the neural computations that produce subunits. Preliminary results suggest that these computations can be understood in terms of convergence of photoreceptor signals via specific types of interneurons to ganglion cells.