Color in Visual Recognition: from flat to deep representations and some biological parallelisms

CVC has a new PhD on its record!


Visual recognition is one of the main problems in computer vision that attempts to solve image understanding by deciding what objects are in images. This problem can be computationally solved by using relevant sets of visual features, such as edges, corners, color or more complex object parts. This thesis contributes to how color features have to be represented for recognition tasks.

Image features can be extracted following two different approaches. A first approach is defining handcrafted descriptors of images which is then followed by a learning scheme to classify the content (named flat schemes in [Kruger, 2013]. In this approach, perceptual considerations are habitually used to define efficient color features. Here we propose a new flat color descriptor based on the extension of color channels to boost the representation of spatio-chromatic contrast that surpasses state-of-the-art approaches. However, flat schemes present a lack of generality far away from the capabilities of biological systems. A second approach proposes evolving these flat schemes into a hierarchical process, like in the visual cortex. This includes an automatic process to learn optimal features. These deep schemes, and more specifically Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), have shown an impressive performance to solve various vision problems. However, there is a lack of understanding about the internal representation obtained, as a result of automatic learning. In this thesis we propose a new methodology to explore the internal representation of trained CNNs by defining the Neuron Feature as a visualization of the intrinsic features encoded in each individual neuron. Additionally, and inspired by physiological techniques, we propose to compute different neuron selectivity indexes (e.g., color, class, orientation or symmetry, amongst others) to label and classify the full CNN neuron population to understand learned representations.

Finally, using the proposed methodology, we show an in-depth study on how color is represented on a specific CNN, trained for object recognition, that competes with primate representational abilities [Cadieu, 2014]. We found several parallelisms with biological visual systems: (a) a significant number of color selectivity neurons throughout all the layers; (b) an opponent and low frequency representation of color oriented edges and a higher sampling of frequency selectivity in brightness than in color in 1st layer like in V1; (c) a higher sampling of color hue in the second layer aligned to observed hue maps in V2; (d) a strong color and shape entanglement in all layers from basic features in shallower layers (V1 and V2) to object and background shapes in deeper layers (V4 and IT); and (e) a strong correlation between neuron color selectivities and color dataset bias.