Tag Archives: Computer Vision

Supercharge your Computer Vision models with the TensorFlow Object Detection API



(Cross-posted on the Google Open Source Blog)

At Google, we develop flexible state-of-the-art machine learning (ML) systems for computer vision that not only can be used to improve our products and services, but also spur progress in the research community. Creating accurate ML models capable of localizing and identifying multiple objects in a single image remains a core challenge in the field, and we invest a significant amount of time training and experimenting with these systems.
Detected objects in a sample image (from the COCO dataset) made by one of our models. Image credit: Michael Miley, original image.
Last October, our in-house object detection system achieved new state-of-the-art results, and placed first in the COCO detection challenge. Since then, this system has generated results for a number of research publications1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and has been put to work in Google products such as NestCam, the similar items and style ideas feature in Image Search and street number and name detection in Street View.

Today we are happy to make this system available to the broader research community via the TensorFlow Object Detection API. This codebase is an open-source framework built on top of TensorFlow that makes it easy to construct, train and deploy object detection models. Our goals in designing this system was to support state-of-the-art models while allowing for rapid exploration and research. Our first release contains the following:
The SSD models that use MobileNet are lightweight, so that they can be comfortably run in real time on mobile devices. Our winning COCO submission in 2016 used an ensemble of the Faster RCNN models, which are are more computationally intensive but significantly more accurate. For more details on the performance of these models, see our CVPR 2017 paper.

Are you ready to get started?
We’ve certainly found this code to be useful for our computer vision needs, and we hope that you will as well. Contributions to the codebase are welcome and please stay tuned for our own further updates to the framework. To get started, download the code here and try detecting objects in some of your own images using the Jupyter notebook, or training your own pet detector on Cloud ML engine!

Acknowledgements
The release of the Tensorflow Object Detection API and the pre-trained model zoo has been the result of widespread collaboration among Google researchers with feedback and testing from product groups. In particular we want to highlight the contributions of the following individuals:

Core Contributors: Derek Chow, Chen Sun, Menglong Zhu, Matthew Tang, Anoop Korattikara, Alireza Fathi, Ian Fischer, Zbigniew Wojna, Yang Song, Sergio Guadarrama, Jasper Uijlings, Viacheslav Kovalevskyi, Kevin Murphy

Also special thanks to: Andrew Howard, Rahul Sukthankar, Vittorio Ferrari, Tom Duerig, Chuck Rosenberg, Hartwig Adam, Jing Jing Long, Victor Gomes, George Papandreou, Tyler Zhu

References
  1. Speed/accuracy trade-offs for modern convolutional object detectors, Huang et al., CVPR 2017 (paper describing this framework)
  2. Towards Accurate Multi-person Pose Estimation in the Wild, Papandreou et al., CVPR 2017
  3. YouTube-BoundingBoxes: A Large High-Precision Human-Annotated Data Set for Object Detection in Video, Real et al., CVPR 2017 (see also our blog post)
  4. Beyond Skip Connections: Top-Down Modulation for Object Detection, Shrivastava et al., arXiv preprint arXiv:1612.06851, 2016
  5. Spatially Adaptive Computation Time for Residual Networks, Figurnov et al., CVPR 2017
  6. AVA: A Video Dataset of Spatio-temporally Localized Atomic Visual Actions, Gu et al., arXiv preprint arXiv:1705.08421, 2017
  7. MobileNets: Efficient convolutional neural networks for mobile vision applications, Howard et al., arXiv preprint arXiv:1704.04861, 2017

Supercharge your Computer Vision models with the TensorFlow Object Detection API

Crossposted on the Google Research Blog

At Google, we develop flexible state-of-the-art machine learning (ML) systems for computer vision that not only can be used to improve our products and services, but also spur progress in the research community. Creating accurate ML models capable of localizing and identifying multiple objects in a single image remains a core challenge in the field, and we invest a significant amount of time training and experimenting with these systems.
Detected objects in a sample image (from the COCO dataset) made by one of our models.
Image credit: Michael Miley, original image
Last October, our in-house object detection system achieved new state-of-the-art results, and placed first in the COCO detection challenge. Since then, this system has generated results for a number of research publications1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and has been put to work in Google products such as NestCam, the similar items and style ideas feature in Image Search and street number and name detection in Street View.

Today we are happy to make this system available to the broader research community via the TensorFlow Object Detection API. This codebase is an open source framework built on top of TensorFlow that makes it easy to construct, train and deploy object detection models.  Our goals in designing this system was to support state-of-the-art models while allowing for rapid exploration and research.  Our first release contains the following:
The SSD models that use MobileNet are lightweight, so that they can be comfortably run in real time on mobile devices. Our winning COCO submission in 2016 used an ensemble of the Faster RCNN models, which are are more computationally intensive but significantly more accurate.  For more details on the performance of these models, see our CVPR 2017 paper.

Are you ready to get started?
We’ve certainly found this code to be useful for our computer vision needs, and we hope that you will as well.  Contributions to the codebase are welcome and please stay tuned for our own further updates to the framework. To get started, download the code here and try detecting objects in some of your own images using the Jupyter notebook, or training your own pet detector on Cloud ML engine!

By Jonathan Huang, Research Scientist and Vivek Rathod, Software Engineer

Acknowledgements
The release of the Tensorflow Object Detection API and the pre-trained model zoo has been the result of widespread collaboration among Google researchers with feedback and testing from product groups. In particular we want to highlight the contributions of the following individuals:

Core Contributors: Derek Chow, Chen Sun, Menglong Zhu, Matthew Tang, Anoop Korattikara, Alireza Fathi, Ian Fischer, Zbigniew Wojna, Yang Song, Sergio Guadarrama, Jasper Uijlings, Viacheslav Kovalevskyi, Kevin Murphy

Also special thanks to: Andrew Howard, Rahul Sukthankar, Vittorio Ferrari, Tom Duerig, Chuck Rosenberg, Hartwig Adam, Jing Jing Long, Victor Gomes, George Papandreou, Tyler Zhu

References
  1. Speed/accuracy trade-offs for modern convolutional object detectors, Huang et al., CVPR 2017 (paper describing this framework)
  2. Towards Accurate Multi-person Pose Estimation in the Wild, Papandreou et al., CVPR 2017
  3. YouTube-BoundingBoxes: A Large High-Precision Human-Annotated Data Set for Object Detection in Video, Real et al., CVPR 2017 (see also our blog post)
  4. Beyond Skip Connections: Top-Down Modulation for Object Detection, Shrivastava et al., arXiv preprint arXiv:1612.06851, 2016
  5. Spatially Adaptive Computation Time for Residual Networks, Figurnov et al., CVPR 2017
  6. AVA: A Video Dataset of Spatio-temporally Localized Atomic Visual Actions, Gu et al., arXiv preprint arXiv:1705.08421, 2017
  7. MobileNets: Efficient convolutional neural networks for mobile vision applications, Howard et al., arXiv preprint arXiv:1704.04861, 2017

MobileNets: Open Source Models for Efficient On-Device Vision

Crossposted on the Google Research Blog

Deep learning has fueled tremendous progress in the field of computer vision in recent years, with neural networks repeatedly pushing the frontier of visual recognition technology. While many of those technologies such as object, landmark, logo and text recognition are provided for internet-connected devices through the Cloud Vision API, we believe that the ever-increasing computational power of mobile devices can enable the delivery of these technologies into the hands of our users, anytime, anywhere, regardless of internet connection. However, visual recognition for on device and embedded applications poses many challenges — models must run quickly with high accuracy in a resource-constrained environment making use of limited computation, power and space.

Today we are pleased to announce the release of MobileNets, a family of mobile-first computer vision models for TensorFlow, designed to effectively maximize accuracy while being mindful of the restricted resources for an on-device or embedded application. MobileNets are small, low-latency, low-power models parameterized to meet the resource constraints of a variety of use cases. They can be built upon for classification, detection, embeddings and segmentation similar to how other popular large scale models, such as Inception, are used.
Example use cases include detection, fine-grain classification, attributes and geo-localization.
This release contains the model definition for MobileNets in TensorFlow using TF-Slim, as well as 16 pre-trained ImageNet classification checkpoints for use in mobile projects of all sizes. The models can be run efficiently on mobile devices with TensorFlow Mobile.
Model Checkpoint
Million MACs
Million Parameters
Top-1 Accuracy
Top-5 Accuracy
569
4.24
70.7
89.5
418
4.24
69.3
88.9
291
4.24
67.2
87.5
186
4.24
64.1
85.3
317
2.59
68.4
88.2
233
2.59
67.4
87.3
162
2.59
65.2
86.1
104
2.59
61.8
83.6
150
1.34
64.0
85.4
110
1.34
62.1
84.0
77
1.34
59.9
82.5
49
1.34
56.2
79.6
41
0.47
50.6
75.0
34
0.47
49.0
73.6
21
0.47
46.0
70.7
14
0.47
41.3
66.2
Choose the right MobileNet model to fit your latency and size budget. The size of the network in memory and on disk is proportional to the number of parameters. The latency and power usage of the network scales with the number of Multiply-Accumulates (MACs) which measures the number of fused Multiplication and Addition operations. Top-1 and Top-5 accuracies are measured on the ILSVRC dataset.
We are excited to share MobileNets with the open source community. Information for getting started can be found at the TensorFlow-Slim Image Classification Library. To learn how to run models on-device please go to TensorFlow Mobile. You can read more about the technical details of MobileNets in our paper, MobileNets: Efficient Convolutional Neural Networks for Mobile Vision Applications.

By Andrew G. Howard, Senior Software Engineer and Menglong Zhu, Software Engineer

Acknowledgements
MobileNets were made possible with the hard work of many engineers and researchers throughout Google. Specifically we would like to thank:

Core Contributors: Andrew G. Howard, Menglong Zhu, Bo Chen, Dmitry Kalenichenko, Weijun Wang, Tobias Weyand, Marco Andreetto, Hartwig Adam

Special thanks to: Benoit Jacob, Skirmantas Kligys, George Papandreou, Liang-Chieh Chen, Derek Chow, Sergio Guadarrama, Jonathan Huang, Andre Hentz, Pete Warden

MobileNets: Open-Source Models for Efficient On-Device Vision



Deep learning has fueled tremendous progress in the field of computer vision in recent years, with neural networks repeatedly pushing the frontier of visual recognition technology. While many of those technologies such as object, landmark, logo and text recognition are provided for internet-connected devices through the Cloud Vision API, we believe that the ever-increasing computational power of mobile devices can enable the delivery of these technologies into the hands of our users, anytime, anywhere, regardless of internet connection. However, visual recognition for on device and embedded applications poses many challenges — models must run quickly with high accuracy in a resource-constrained environment making use of limited computation, power and space.

Today we are pleased to announce the release of MobileNets, a family of mobile-first computer vision models for TensorFlow, designed to effectively maximize accuracy while being mindful of the restricted resources for an on-device or embedded application. MobileNets are small, low-latency, low-power models parameterized to meet the resource constraints of a variety of use cases. They can be built upon for classification, detection, embeddings and segmentation similar to how other popular large scale models, such as Inception, are used.
Example use cases include detection, fine-grain classification, attributes and geo-localization.
This release contains the model definition for MobileNets in TensorFlow using TF-Slim, as well as 16 pre-trained ImageNet classification checkpoints for use in mobile projects of all sizes. The models can be run efficiently on mobile devices with TensorFlow Mobile.

Model Checkpoint
Million MACs
Million Parameters
Top-1 Accuracy
Top-5 Accuracy
569
4.24
70.7
89.5
418
4.24
69.3
88.9
291
4.24
67.2
87.5
186
4.24
64.1
85.3
317
2.59
68.4
88.2
233
2.59
67.4
87.3
162
2.59
65.2
86.1
104
2.59
61.8
83.6
150
1.34
64.0
85.4
110
1.34
62.1
84.0
77
1.34
59.9
82.5
49
1.34
56.2
79.6
41
0.47
50.6
75.0
34
0.47
49.0
73.6
21
0.47
46.0
70.7
14
0.47
41.3
66.2
Choose the right MobileNet model to fit your latency and size budget. The size of the network in memory and on disk is proportional to the number of parameters. The latency and power usage of the network scales with the number of Multiply-Accumulates (MACs) which measures the number of fused Multiplication and Addition operations. Top-1 and Top-5 accuracies are measured on the ILSVRC dataset.
We are excited to share MobileNets with the open-source community. Information for getting started can be found at the TensorFlow-Slim Image Classification Library. To learn how to run models on-device please go to TensorFlow Mobile. You can read more about the technical details of MobileNets in our paper, MobileNets: Efficient Convolutional Neural Networks for Mobile Vision Applications.

Acknowledgements
MobileNets were made possible with the hard work of many engineers and researchers throughout Google. Specifically we would like to thank:

Core Contributors: Andrew G. Howard, Menglong Zhu, Bo Chen, Dmitry Kalenichenko, Weijun Wang, Tobias Weyand, Marco Andreetto, Hartwig Adam

Special thanks to: Benoit Jacob, Skirmantas Kligys, George Papandreou, Liang-Chieh Chen, Derek Chow, Sergio Guadarrama, Jonathan Huang, Andre Hentz, Pete Warden

Neural Network-Generated Illustrations in Allo



Taking, sharing, and viewing selfies has become a daily habit for many — the car selfie, the cute-outfit selfie, the travel selfie, the I-woke-up-like-this selfie. Apart from a social capacity, self-portraiture has long served as a means for self and identity exploration. For some, it’s about figuring out who they are. For others it’s about projecting how they want to be perceived. Sometimes it’s both.

Photography in the form of a selfie is a very direct form of expression. It comes with a set of rules bounded by reality. Illustration, on the other hand, empowers people to define themselves - it’s warmer and less fraught than reality.
Today, Google is introducing a feature in Allo that uses a combination of neural networks and the work of artists to turn your selfie into a personalized sticker pack. Simply snap a selfie, and it’ll return an automatically generated illustrated version of you, on the fly, with customization options to help you personalize the stickers even further.
What makes you, you?
The traditional computer vision approach to mapping selfies to art would be to analyze the pixels of an image and algorithmically determine attribute values by looking at pixel values to measure color, shape, or texture. However, people today take selfies in all types of lighting conditions and poses. And while people can easily pick out and recognize qualitative features, like eye color, regardless of the lighting condition, this is a very complex task for computers. When people look at eye color, they don’t just interpret the pixel values of blue or green, but take into account the surrounding visual context.

In order to account for this, we explored how we could enable an algorithm to pick out qualitative features in a manner similar to the way people do, rather than the traditional approach of hand coding how to interpret every permutation of lighting condition, eye color, etc. While we could have trained a large convolutional neural network from scratch to attempt to accomplish this, we wondered if there was a more efficient way to get results, since we expected that learning to interpret a face into an illustration would be a very iterative process.

That led us to run some experiments, similar to DeepDream, on some of Google's existing more general-purpose computer vision neural networks. We discovered that a few neurons among the millions in these networks were good at focusing on things they weren’t explicitly trained to look at that seemed useful for creating personalized stickers. Additionally, by virtue of being large general-purpose neural networks they had already figured out how to abstract away things they didn’t need. All that was left to do was to provide a much smaller number of human labeled examples to teach the classifiers to isolate out the qualities that the neural network already knew about the image.

To create an illustration of you that captures the qualities that would make it recognizable to your friends, we worked alongside an artistic team to create illustrations that represented a wide variety of features. Artists initially designed a set of hairstyles, for example, that they thought would be representative, and with the help of human raters we used these hairstyles to train the network to match the right illustration to the right selfie. We then asked human raters to judge the sticker output against the input image to see how well it did. In some instances, they determined that some styles were not well represented, so the artists created more that the neural network could learn to identify as well.
Raters were asked to classify hairstyles that the icon on the left resembled closest. Then, once consensus was reached, resident artist Lamar Abrams drew a representation of what they had in common.
Avoiding the uncanny valley
In the study of aesthetics, a well-known problem is the uncanny valley - the hypothesis that human replicas which appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings can feel repulsive. In machine learning, this could be compounded if were confronted by a computer’s perception of you, versus how you may think of yourself, which can be at odds.

Rather than aim to replicate a person’s appearance exactly, pursuing a lower resolution model, like emojis and stickers, allows the team to explore expressive representation by returning an image that is less about reproducing reality and more about breaking the rules of representation.
The team worked with artist Lamar Abrams to design the features that make up more than 563 quadrillion combinations.
Translating pixels to artistic illustrations
Reconciling how the computer perceives you with how you perceive yourself and what you want to project is truly an artistic exercise. This makes a customization feature that includes different hairstyles, skin tones, and nose shapes, essential. After all, illustration by its very nature can be subjective. Aesthetics are defined by race, culture, and class which can lead to creating zones of exclusion without consciously trying. As such, we strove to create a space for a range of race, age, masculinity, femininity, and/or androgyny. Our teams continue to evaluate the research results to help prevent against incorporating biases while training the system.
Creating a broad palette for identity and sentiment
There is no such thing as a ‘universal aesthetic’ or ‘a singular you’. The way people talk to their parents is different than how they talk to their friends which is different than how they talk to their colleagues. It’s not enough to make an avatar that is a literal representation of yourself when there are many versions of you. To address that, the Allo team is working with a range of artistic voices to help others extend their own voice. This first style that launched today speaks to your sarcastic side but the next pack might be more cute for those sincere moments. Then after that, maybe they’ll turn you into a dog. If emojis broadened the world of communication it’s not hard to imagine how this technology and language evolves. What will be most exciting is listening to what people say with it.

This feature is starting to roll out in Allo today for Android, and will come soon to Allo on iOS.

Acknowledgements
This work was made possible through a collaboration of the Allo Team and Machine Perception researchers at Google. We additionally thank Lamar Abrams, Koji Ashida, Forrester Cole, Jennifer Daniel, Shiraz Fuman, Dilip Krishnan, Inbar Mosseri, Aaron Sarna, and Bhavik Singh.

Updating Google Maps with Deep Learning and Street View



Every day, Google Maps provides useful directions, real-time traffic information and information on businesses to millions of people. In order to provide the best experience for our users, this information has to constantly mirror an ever-changing world. While Street View cars collect millions of images daily, it is impossible to manually analyze more than 80 billion high resolution images collected to date in order to find new, or updated, information for Google Maps. One of the goals of the Google’s Ground Truth team is to enable the automatic extraction of information from our geo-located imagery to improve Google Maps.

In “Attention-based Extraction of Structured Information from Street View Imagery”, we describe our approach to accurately read street names out of very challenging Street View images in many countries, automatically, using a deep neural network. Our algorithm achieves 84.2% accuracy on the challenging French Street Name Signs (FSNS) dataset, significantly outperforming the previous state-of-the-art systems. Importantly, our system is easily extensible to extract other types of information out of Street View images as well, and now helps us automatically extract business names from store fronts. We are excited to announce that this model is now publicly available!
Example of street name from the FSNS dataset correctly transcribed by our system. Up to four views of the same sign are provided.
Text recognition in a natural environment is a challenging computer vision and machine learning problem. While traditional Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems mainly focus on extracting text from scanned documents, text acquired from natural scenes is more challenging due to visual artifacts, such as distortion, occlusions, directional blur, cluttered background or different viewpoints. Our efforts to solve this research challenge first began in 2008, when we used neural networks to blur faces and license plates in Street View images to protect the privacy of our users. From this initial research, we realized that with enough labeled data, we could additionally use machine learning not only to protect the privacy of our users, but also to automatically improve Google Maps with relevant up-to-date information.

In 2014, Google’s Ground Truth team published a state-of-the-art method for reading street numbers on the Street View House Numbers (SVHN) dataset, implemented by then summer intern (now Googler) Ian Goodfellow. This work was not only of academic interest but was critical in making Google Maps more accurate. Today, over one-third of addresses globally have had their location improved thanks to this system. In some countries, such as Brazil, this algorithm has improved more than 90% of the addresses in Google Maps today, greatly improving the usability of our maps.

The next logical step was to extend these techniques to street names. To solve this problem, we created and released French Street Name Signs (FSNS), a large training dataset of more than 1 million street names. The FSNS dataset was a multi-year effort designed to allow anyone to improve their OCR models on a challenging and real use case. FSNS dataset is much larger and more challenging than SVHN in that accurate recognition of street signs may require combining information from many different images.
These are examples of challenging signs that are properly transcribed by our system by selecting or combining understanding across images. The second example is extremely challenging by itself, but the model learned a language model prior that enables it to remove ambiguity and correctly read the street name.
With this training set, Google intern Zbigniew Wojna spent the summer of 2016 developing a deep learning model architecture to automatically label new Street View imagery. One of the interesting strengths of our new model is that it can normalize the text to be consistent with our naming conventions, as well as ignore extraneous text, directly from the data itself.
Example of text normalization learned from data in Brazil. Here it changes “AV.” into “Avenida” and “Pres.” into “Presidente” which is what we desire.
In this example, the model is not confused from the fact that there is two street names, properly normalizes “Av” into “Avenue” as well as correctly ignores the number “1600”.
While this model is accurate, it did show a sequence error rate of 15.8%. However, after analyzing failure cases, we found that 48% of them were due to ground truth errors, highlighting the fact that this model is on par with the label quality (a full analysis our error rate can be found in our paper).

This new system, combined with the one extracting street numbers, allows us to create new addresses directly from imagery, where we previously didn’t know the name of the street, or the location of the addresses. Now, whenever a Street View car drives on a newly built road, our system can analyze the tens of thousands of images that would be captured, extract the street names and numbers, and properly create and locate the new addresses, automatically, on Google Maps.

But automatically creating addresses for Google Maps is not enough -- additionally we want to be able to provide navigation to businesses by name. In 2015, we published “Large Scale Business Discovery from Street View Imagery”, which proposed an approach to accurately detect business store-front signs in Street View images. However, once a store front is detected, one still needs to accurately extract its name for it to be useful -- the model must figure out which text is the business name, and which text is not relevant. We call this extracting “structured text” information out of imagery. It is not just text, it is text with semantic meaning attached to it.

Using different training data, the same model architecture that we used to read street names can also be used to accurately extract business names out of business facades. In this particular case, we are able to only extract the business name which enables us to verify if we already know about this business in Google Maps, allowing us to have more accurate and up-to-date business listings.
The system is correctly able to predict the business name ‘Zelina Pneus’, despite not receiving any data about the true location of the name in the image. Model is not confused by the tire brands that the sign indicates are available at the store.
Applying these large models across our more than 80 billion Street View images requires a lot of computing power. This is why the Ground Truth team was the first user of Google's TPUs, which were publicly announced earlier this year, to drastically reduce the computational cost of the inferences of our pipeline.

People rely on the accuracy of Google Maps in order to assist them. While keeping Google Maps up-to-date with the ever-changing landscape of cities, roads and businesses presents a technical challenge that is far from solved, it is the goal of the Ground Truth team to drive cutting-edge innovation in machine learning to create a better experience for over one billion Google Maps users.

PhotoScan: Taking Glare-Free Pictures of Pictures



Yesterday, we released an update to PhotoScan, an app for iOS and Android that allows you to digitize photo prints with just a smartphone. One of the key features of PhotoScan is the ability to remove glare from prints, which are often glossy and reflective, as are the plastic album pages or glass-covered picture frames that host them. To create this feature, we developed a unique blend of computer vision and image processing techniques that can carefully align and combine several slightly different pictures of a print to separate the glare from the image underneath.
Left: A regular digital picture of a physical print. Right: Glare-free digital output from PhotoScan
When taking a single picture of a photo, determining which regions of the picture are the actual photo and which regions are glare is challenging to do automatically. Moreover, the glare may often saturate regions in the picture, rendering it impossible to see or recover the parts of the photo underneath it. But if we take several pictures of the photo while moving the camera, the position of the glare tends to change, covering different regions of the photo. In most cases we found that every pixel of the photo is likely not to be covered by glare in at least one of the pictures. While no single view may be glare-free, we can combine multiple pictures of the printed photo taken at different angles to remove the glare. The challenge is that the images need to be aligned very accurately in order to combine them properly, and this processing needs to run very quickly on the phone to provide a near instant experience.
Left: The captured, input images (5 in total). Right: If we stabilize the images on the photo, we can see just the glare moving, covering different parts of the photo. Notice no single image is glare-free.
Our technique is inspired by our earlier work published at SIGGRAPH 2015, which we dubbed “obstruction-free photography”. It uses similar principles to remove various types of obstructions from the field of view. However, the algorithm we originally proposed was based on a generative model where the motion and appearance of both the main scene and the obstruction layer are estimated. While that model is quite powerful and can remove a variety of obstructions, it is too computationally expensive to be run on smartphones. We therefore developed a simpler model that treats glare as an outlier, and only attempts to register the underlying, glare-free photo. While this model is simpler, the task is still quite challenging as the registration needs to be highly accurate and robust.

How it Works
We start from a series of pictures of the print taken by the user while moving the camera. The first picture - the “reference frame” - defines the desired output viewpoint. The user is then instructed to take four additional frames. In each additional frame, we detect sparse feature points (we compute ORB features on Harris corners) and use them to establish homographies mapping each frame to the reference frame.
Left: Detected feature matches between the reference frame and each other frame (left), and the warped frames according to the estimated homographies (right).
While the technique may sound straightforward, there is a catch - homographies are only able to align flat images. But printed photos are often not entirely flat (as is the case with the example shown above). Therefore, we use optical flow — a fundamental, computer vision representation for motion, which establishes pixel-wise mapping between two images — to correct the non-planarities. We start from the homography-aligned frames, and compute “flow fields” to warp the images and further refine the registration. In the example below, notice how the corners of the photo on the left slightly “move” after registering the frames using only homographies. The right hand side shows how the photo is better aligned after refining the registration using optical flow.
Comparison between the warped frames using homographies (left) and after the additional warp refinement using optical flow (right).
The difference in the registration is subtle, but has a big impact on the end result. Notice how small misalignments manifest themselves as duplicated image structures in the result, and how these artifacts are alleviated with the additional flow refinement.
Comparison between the glare removal result with (right) and without (left) optical flow refinement. In the result using homographies only (left), notice artifacts around the eye, nose and teeth of the person, and duplicated stems and flower petals on the fabric.
Here too, the challenge was to make optical flow, a naturally slow algorithm, work very quickly on the phone. Instead of computing optical flow at each pixel as done traditionally (the number of flow vectors computed is equal to the number of input pixels), we represent a flow field by a smaller number of control points, and express the motion at each pixel in the image as a function of the motion at the control points. Specifically, we divide each image into tiled, non-overlapping cells to form a coarse grid, and represent the flow of a pixel in a cell as the bilinear combination of the flow at the four corners of the cell that contains it.

The grid setup for grid optical flow. A point p is represented as the bilinear interpolation of the four corner points of the cell that encapsulates it.
Left: Illustration of the computed flow field on one of the frames. Right: The flow color coding: orientation and magnitude represented by hue and saturation, respectively.
This results in a much smaller problem to solve, since the number of flow vectors to compute now equals the number of grid points, which is typically much smaller than the number of pixels. This process is similar in nature to the spline-based image registration described in Szeliski and Coughlan (1997). With this algorithm, we were able to reduce the optical flow computation time by a factor of ~40 on a Pixel phone!
Flipping between the homography-registered frame and the flow-refined warped frame (using the above flow field), superimposed on the (clean) reference frame, shows how the computed flow field “snaps” image parts to their corresponding parts in the reference frame, improving the registration.
Finally, in order to compose the glare-free output, for any given location in the registered frames, we examine the pixel values, and use a soft minimum algorithm to obtain the darkest observed value. More specifically, we compute the expectation of the minimum brightness over the registered frames, assigning less weight to pixels close to the (warped) image boundaries. We use this method rather than computing the minimum directly across the frames due to the fact that corresponding pixels at each frame may have slightly different brightness. Therefore, per-pixel minimum can produce visible seams due to sudden intensity changes at boundaries between overlaid images.
Regular minimum (left) versus soft minimum (right) over the registered frames.
The algorithm can support a variety of scanning conditions — matte and gloss prints, photos inside or outside albums, magazine covers.

Input     Registered     Glare-free
To get the final result, the Photos team has developed a method that automatically detects and crops the photo area, and rectifies it to a frontal view. Because of perspective distortion, the scanned rectangular photo usually appears to be a quadrangle on the image. The method analyzes image signals, like color and edges, to figure out the exact boundary of the original photo on the scanned image, then applies a geometric transformation to rectify the quadrangle area back to its original rectangular shape yielding high-quality, glare-free digital version of the photo.
So overall, quite a lot going on under the hood, and all done almost instantaneously on your phone! To give PhotoScan a try, download the app on Android or iOS.

Advancing Research on Video Understanding with the YouTube-BoundingBoxes Dataset



One of the most challenging research areas in machine learning today is enabling computers to understand what a scene is about. For example, while humans know that a ball that disappears behind a wall only to reappear a moment later is very likely the same object, this is not at all obvious to an algorithm. Understanding this requires not only a global picture of what objects are contained in each frame of a video, but also where those objects are located within the frame and their locations over time. Just last year we published YouTube-8M, a dataset consisting of automatically labelled YouTube videos. And while this helps further progress in the field, it is only one piece to the puzzle.

Today, in order to facilitate progress in video understanding research, we are introducing YouTube-BoundingBoxes, a dataset consisting of 5 million bounding boxes spanning 23 object categories, densely labeling segments from 210,000 YouTube videos. To date, this is the largest manually annotated video dataset containing bounding boxes, which track objects in temporally contiguous frames. The dataset is designed to be large enough to train large-scale models, and be representative of videos captured in natural settings. Importantly, the human-labelled annotations contain objects as they appear in the real world with partial occlusions, motion blur and natural lighting.
Summary of dataset statistics. Bar Chart: Relative number of detections in existing image (red) and video (blue) data sets. The YouTube BoundingBoxes dataset (YT-BB) is at the bottom, is at the bottom. Table: The three columns are counts for: classification annotations, bounding boxes, and unique videos with bounding boxes. Full details on the dataset can be found in the preprint.
A key feature of this dataset is that bounding box annotations are provided for entire video segments. These bounding box annotations may be used to train models that explicitly leverage this temporal information to identify, localize and track objects over time. In a video, individual annotated objects might become entirely occluded and later return in subsequent frames. These annotations of individual objects are sometimes not recognizable from individual frames, but can be understood and recognized in the context of the video if the objects are localized and tracked accurately.
Three video segments, sampled at 1 frame per second. The final frame of each example shows how it is visually challenging to recognize the bounded object, due to blur or occlusion (train example, blue arrow). However, temporally-related frames, where the object has been more clearly identified, can allow object classes to be inferred. Note how only visible parts are included in the box: the orange arrow in the bear example (middle row) points to the hidden head. The dog example illustrates tight bounding boxes that track the tail (orange arrows) and foot (blue arrows). The airplane example illustrates how partial objects are annotated (first frame) tracked across changes in perspective, occlusions and camera cuts.
We hope that this dataset might ultimately aid the computer vision and machine learning community and lead to new methods for analyzing and understanding real world vision problems. You can learn more about the dataset in this associated preprint.

Acknowledgements
The work was greatly helped along by Xin Pan and Thomas Silva, as well as support and advice from Manfred Georg, Sami Abu-El-Haija, Susanna Ricco and George Toderici.

Google Summer of Code 2016 wrap-up: CloudCV

This guest post is part of our ongoing series of posts from the students, mentors and organization administrators who participated in Google Summer of Code (GSoC), a program which gets university students contributing to open source software.

Google Summer of Code 2016 was a memorable one for CloudCV. Despite being a relatively “young” organization (this is just our second year as a mentor organization), there were many excellent applicants who put a tremendous amount of effort into their proposals and ramp-up tasks. It was difficult to choose!

CloudCV began in the summer of 2014 as a research project within the Machine Learning and Perception Lab at Virginia Tech, with the ambitious goal of democratizing computer vision and machine learning. We’re run exclusively by students and are working to enable developers, researchers, and fellow students to leverage artificial intelligence technology as a service and to share state of the art algorithms with the research community.

In line with this goal, we decided to build two tools that cater to computer vision researchers and hobbyists alike: CloudCV-fy your code and CloudCV-IDE. Though building two new platforms from the ground up was going to be challenging, our students’ motivation was overwhelming and their performance surpassed all expectations. We even demonstrated their work at CVPR 2016, a top-tier computer vision conference!

CloudCV-fy

A recurring use case for computer vision researchers, and many others, is to build a web-based demo and REST API to demonstrate the capabilities of their creations to the world. But web development involves writing hundred of lines of additional code across multiple languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc), which takes time away from research.


Our first student, Ashish Chaudhary, took on this problem by building CloudCV-fy. Over many iterations of design and development, Ashish delivered a tool that allows a user to simply write lightweight wrappers around their machine learning model/library and be done. CloudCV-fy automatically builds web-based interactive demos for them -- no need to tinker with HTML, CSS or JavaScript. Code to demo. Done.

The demo can be hosted on our servers, the user’s own server or any third party cloud service. As a result of this, researchers can focus on what they do best: designing and training models. CloudCV handles the rest. You can learn more in the write-up Ashish did on his blog.

CloudCV-IDE

There has been an explosion in the number of deep learning frameworks and it is difficult for researchers to keep up with all the latest tools. CloudCV-IDE, built by student Gaurav Gupta, addresses this by allowing a user to build a deep learning network with a drag-and-drop interface, then export to the deep learning framework of their choice (Caffe, TensorFlow, etc).

Gaurav also added support to import model configuration files in order to visualize any architecture. This is one of the first attempts to do this.



By the end of the summer, Gaurav delivered a great UI to visualize models with robust support for Caffe and TensorFlow back-ends. This was a successful start that we plan to build on by supporting more frameworks and facilitating collaborative building of deep learning models.

Overall, this was a highly productive GSoC for CloudCV. Our tools are under active development and we welcome contributions and ideas for new features.

We will definitely apply for GSoC 2017. If you are a student interested in participating we encourage you to get involved early! Feel free to reach out to us on our Gitter channel or on our mailing list.

By Viraj Prabhu, Organization Administrator for CloudCV

Get moving with the new Motion Stills



Last June, we released Motion Stills, an iOS app that uses our video stabilization technology to create easily shareable GIFs from Apple Live Photos. Since then, we integrated Motion Stills into Google Photos for iOS and thought of ways to improve it, taking into account your ideas for new features.

Today, we are happy to announce a major new update to the Motion Stills app that will help you create even more beautiful videos and fun GIFs using motion-tracked text overlays, super-resolution videos, and automatic cinemagraphs.

Motion Text

We’ve added motion text so you can create moving text effects, similar to what you might see in movies and TV shows, directly on your phone. With Motion Text, you can easily position text anywhere over your video to get the exact result you want. It only takes a second to initialize while you type, and a tracks at 1000 FPS throughout the whole Live Photo, so the process feels instantaneous.
To make this possible, we took the motion tracking technology that we run on YouTube servers for “Privacy Blur”, and made it run even faster on your device. How? We first create motion metadata for your video by leveraging machine learning to classify foreground/background features as well as to model temporally coherent camera motion. We then take this metadata, and use it as input to an algorithm that can track individual objects while discriminating it from others. The algorithm models each object’s state that includes its motion in space, an implicit appearance model (described as a set of its moving parts), and its centroid and extent, as shown in the figure below.
Enhance! your videos with better detail and loops

Last month, we published the details of our state-of-the-art RAISR technology, which employs machine learning to create super-resolution detail in images. This technology is now available in Motion Stills, automatically sharpening every video you export.

We are also going beyond stabilization to bring you fully automatic cinemagraphs. After freezing the background into a still photo, we analyze our result to optimize for the perfect loop transition. By considering a range of start and end frames, we build a matrix of transition scores between frame pairs. A significant minimum in this matrix reflects the perfect transition, resulting in an endless loop of motion stillness.
Continuing improve the experience

Thanks to your feedback, we’ve additionally rebuilt our navigation and added more tutorials. We’ve also added Apple’s 3D touch to let you “peek and pop” clips in your stream and movie tray. Lots more is coming to address your top requests, so please download the new release of Motion Stills and keep sending us feedback with #motionstills on your favorite social media.