Reducing Label Effort with Deep Active Learning

CVC has a new PhD on its record!

Javad Zolfaghari successfully defended his dissertation on Computer Science on December 20, 2021, and he is now Doctor of Philosophy by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

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What is the thesis about?

Deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have achieved superior performance in many visual recognition applications, such as image classification, detection and segmentation. Training deep CNNs requires huge amounts of labeled data, which is expensive and labor intensive to collect. Active learning is a paradigm aimed at reducing the annotation effort by training the model on actively selected informative and/or representative samples. In this thesis we study several aspects of active learning including video object detection for autonomous driving systems, image classification on balanced and imbalanced datasets and the incorporation of self-supervised learning in active learning. We briefly describe our approach in each of these areas to reduce the labeling effort.

In chapter two we introduce a novel active learning approach for object detection in videos by exploiting temporal coherence. Our criterion is based on the estimated number of errors in terms of false positives and false negatives. Additionally, we introduce a synthetic video dataset, called SYNTHIA-AL, specially designed to evaluate active learning for video object detection in road scenes. Finally, we show that our approach outperforms active learning baselines tested on two outdoor datasets.

In the next chapter we address the well-known problem of over confidence in the neural networks. As an alternative to network confidence, we propose a new informativeness-based active learning method that captures the learning dynamics of neural network with a metric called label-dispersion. This metric is low when the network consistently assigns the same label to the sample during the course of training and high when the assigned label changes frequently. We show that label-dispersion is a promising predictor of the uncertainty of the network, and show on two benchmark datasets that an active learning algorithm based on label-dispersion obtains excellent results.

In chapter four, we tackle the problem of sampling bias in active learning methods on imbalanced datasets. Active learning is generally studied on balanced datasets where an equal amount of images per class is available. However, real-world datasets suffer from severe imbalanced classes, the so called longtail distribution. We argue that this further complicates the active learning process, since the imbalanced data pool can result in suboptimal classifiers. To address this problem in the context of active learning, we propose a general optimization framework that explicitly takes class-balancing into account. Results on three datasets show that the method is general (it can be combined with most existing active learning algorithms) and can be effectively applied to boost the performance of both informative and representative-based active learning methods. In addition, we show that also on balanced datasets our method generally results in a performance gain.

Another paradigm to reduce the annotation effort is self-training that learns from a large amount of unlabeled data in an unsupervised way and fine-tunes on few labeled samples. Recent advancements in self-training have achieved very impressive results rivaling supervised learning on some datasets. In the last chapter we focus on whether active learning and self supervised learning can benefit from each other. We study object recognition datasets with several labeling budgets for the evaluations. Our experiments reveal that self-training is remarkably more efficient than active learning at reducing the labeling effort, that for a low labeling budget, active learning offers no benefit to self-training, and finally that the combination of active learning and self-training is fruitful when the labeling budget is high.

Keywords: visual recognition, deep active learning, video object detection, semi-supervised learning, imbalance datasets, self-supervised learning.