Academic and research departmentsCentre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP), Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
Sketch-based image retrieval (SBIR) is a cross-modal matching problem which is typically solved by learning a joint embedding space where the semantic content shared between photo and sketch modalities are preserved. However, a fundamental challenge in SBIR has been largely ignored so far, that is, sketches are drawn by humans and considerable style variations exist amongst different users. An effective SBIR model needs to explicitly account for this style diversity, crucially, to generalise to unseen user styles. To this end, a novel style-agnostic SBIR model is proposed. Different from existing models, a cross-modal variational autoencoder (VAE) is employed to explicitly disentangle each sketch into a semantic content part shared with the corresponding photo, and a style part unique to the sketcher. Importantly, to make our model dynamically adaptable to any unseen user styles, we propose to metatrain our cross-modal VAE by adding two style-adaptive components: a set of feature transformation layers to its encoder and a regulariser to the disentangled semantic content latent code. With this meta-learning framework, our model can not only disentangle the cross-modal shared semantic content for SBIR, but can adapt the disentanglement to any unseen user style as well, making the SBIR model truly style-agnostic. Extensive experiments show that our style-agnostic model yields state-of-the-art performance for both category-level and instance-level SBIR.
Perceptual organization remains one of the very few established theories on the human visual system. It underpinned many pre-deep seminal works on segmentation and detection, yet research has seen a rapid decline since the preferential shift to learning deep models. Of the limited attempts, most aimed at interpreting complex visual scenes using perceptual organizational rules. This has however been proven to be sub-optimal, since models were unable to effectively capture the visual complexity in real-world imagery. In this paper, we rejuvenate the study of perceptual organization, by advocating two positional changes: (i) we examine purposefully generated synthetic data, instead of complex real imagery, and (ii) we ask machines to synthesize novel perceptually-valid patterns, instead of explaining existing data. Our overall answer lies with the introduction of a novel visual challenge – the challenge of perceptual question answering (PQA). Upon observing example perceptual question-answer pairs, the goal for PQA is to solve similar questions by generating answers entirely from scratch (see Figure 1). Our first contribution is therefore the first dataset of perceptual question-answer pairs, each generated specifically for a particular Gestalt principle. We then borrow insights from human psychology to design an agent that casts perceptual organization as a self-attention problem, where a proposed grid-to-grid mapping network directly generates answer patterns from scratch. Experiments show our agent to outperform a selection of naive and strong baselines. A human study however indicates that ours uses astronomically more data to learn when compared to an average human, necessitating future research (with or without our dataset).
Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) remains a challenging problem to date, largely due to the varying writing styles that exist amongst us. Prior works however generally operate with the assumption that there is a limited number of styles, most of which have already been captured by existing datasets. In this paper, we take a completely different perspective – we work on the assumption that there is always a new style that is drastically different, and that we will only have very limited data during testing to perform adaptation. This creates a commercially viable solution – being exposed to the new style, the model has the best shot at adaptation, and the few-sample nature makes it practical to implement. We achieve this via a novel meta-learning framework which exploits additional new-writer data via a support set, and outputs a writer-adapted model via single gradient step update, all during inference (see Figure 1). We discover and leverage on the important insight that there exists few key characters per writer that exhibit relatively larger style discrepancies. For that, we additionally propose to meta-learn instance specific weights for a character-wise cross-entropy loss, which is specifically designed to work with the sequential nature of text data. Our writer-adaptive MetaHTR framework can be easily implemented on the top of most state-of-the-art HTR models. Experiments show an average performance gain of 5-7% can be obtained by observing very few new style data (≤ 16).
A fundamental challenge faced by existing Fine-Grained Sketch-Based Image Retrieval (FG-SBIR) models is the data scarcity – model performances are largely bottlenecked by the lack of sketch-photo pairs. Whilst the number of photos can be easily scaled, each corresponding sketch still needs to be individually produced. In this paper, we aim to mitigate such an upper-bound on sketch data, and study whether unlabelled photos alone (of which they are many) can be cultivated for performance gain. In particular, we introduce a novel semi-supervised framework for cross-modal retrieval that can additionally leverage large-scale unla-belled photos to account for data scarcity. At the center of our semi-supervision design is a sequential photo-to-sketch generation model that aims to generate paired sketches for unlabelled photos. Importantly, we further introduce a discriminator-guided mechanism to guide against unfaithful generation, together with a distillation loss-based regu-larizer to provide tolerance against noisy training samples. Last but not least, we treat generation and retrieval as two conjugate problems, where a joint learning procedure is devised for each module to mutually benefit from each other. Extensive experiments show that our semi-supervised model yields a significant performance boost over the state-of-the-art supervised alternatives, as well as existing methods that can exploit unlabelled photos for FG-SBIR.
Sketch as an image search query is an ideal alternative to text in capturing the finegrained visual details. Prior successes on fine-grained sketch-based image retrieval (FGSBIR) have demonstrated the importance of tackling the unique traits of sketches as opposed to photos, e.g., temporal vs. static, strokes vs. pixels, and abstract vs. pixelperfect. In this paper, we study a further trait of sketches that has been overlooked to date, that is, they are hierarchical in terms of the levels of detail – a person typically sketches up to various extents of detail to depict an object. This hierarchical structure is often visually distinct. In this paper, we design a novel network that is capable of cultivating sketch-specific hierarchies and exploiting them to match sketch with photo at corresponding hierarchical levels. In particular, features from a sketch and a photo are enriched using cross-modal co-attention, coupled with hierarchical node fusion at every level to form a better embedding space to conduct retrieval. Experiments on common benchmarks show our method to outperform state-of-the-arts by a significant margin.