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Institute Talks

Less-artificial intelligence

Talk
  • 18 June 2018 • 15:00 16:00
  • Prof. Dr. Matthias Bethge
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart - 2R04

Haptic Engineering and Science at Multiple Scales

Talk
  • 20 June 2018 • 11:00 12:00
  • Yon Visell, PhD
  • MPI-IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3, Room 2P4

I will describe recent research in my lab on haptics and robotics. It has been a longstanding challenge to realize engineering systems that can match the amazing perceptual and motor feats of biological systems for touch, including the human hand. Some of the difficulties of meeting this objective can be traced to our limited understanding of the mechanics, and to the high dimensionality of the signals, and to the multiple length and time scales - physical regimes - involved. An additional source of richness and complication arises from the sensitive dependence of what we feel on what we do, i.e. on the tight coupling between touch-elicited mechanical signals, object contacts, and actions. I will describe research in my lab that has aimed at addressing these challenges, and will explain how the results are guiding the development of new technologies for haptics, wearable computing, and robotics.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker

Imitation of Human Motion Planning

Talk
  • 29 June 2018 • 12:00 12:45
  • Jim Mainprice
  • N3.022 (Aquarium)

Humans act upon their environment through motion, the ability to plan their movements is therefore an essential component of their autonomy. In recent decades, motion planning has been widely studied in robotics and computer graphics. Nevertheless robots still fail to achieve human reactivity and coordination. The need for more efficient motion planning algorithms has been present through out my own research on "human-aware" motion planning, which aims to take the surroundings humans explicitly into account. I believe imitation learning is the key to this particular problem as it allows to learn both, new motion skills and predictive models, two capabilities that are at the heart of "human-aware" robots while simultaneously holding the promise of faster and more reactive motion generation. In this talk I will present my work in this direction.

Learning Control for Intelligent Physical Systems

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 14:15 14:45
  • Dr. Sebastian Trimpe
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

Modern technology allows us to collect, process, and share more data than ever before. This data revolution opens up new ways to design control and learning algorithms, which will form the algorithmic foundation for future intelligent systems that shall act autonomously in the physical world. Starting from a discussion of the special challenges when combining machine learning and control, I will present some of our recent research in this exciting area. Using the example of the Apollo robot learning to balance a stick in its hand, I will explain how intelligent agents can learn new behavior from just a few experimental trails. I will also discuss the need for theoretical guarantees in learning-based control, and how we can obtain them by combining learning and control theory.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

Household Assistants: the Path from the Care-o-bot Vision to First Products

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 14:45 15:15
  • Dr. Martin Hägele
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

In 1995 Fraunhofer IPA embarked on a mission towards designing a personal robot assistant for everyday tasks. In the following years Care-O-bot developed into a long-term experiment for exploring and demonstrating new robot technologies and future product visions. The recent fourth generation of the Care-O-bot, introduced in 2014 aimed at designing an integrated system which addressed a number of innovations such as modularity, “low-cost” by making use of new manufacturing processes, and advanced human-user interaction. Some 15 systems were built and the intellectual property (IP) generated by over 20 years of research was recently licensed to a start-up. The presentation will review the path from an experimental platform for building up expertise in various robotic disciplines to recent pilot applications based on the now commercial Care-O-bot hardware.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

The Critical Role of Atoms at Surfaces and Interfaces: Do we really have control? Can we?

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 15:45 16:15
  • Prof. Dr. Dawn Bonnell
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

With the ubiquity of catalyzed reactions in manufacturing, the emergence of the device laden internet of things, and global challenges with respect to water and energy, it has never been more important to understand atomic interactions in the functional materials that can provide solutions in these spaces.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

Interactive Visualization – A Key Discipline for Big Data Analysis

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 15:00 15:30
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Ertl
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

Big Data has become the general term relating to the benefits and threats which result from the huge amount of data collected in all parts of society. While data acquisition, storage and access are relevant technical aspects, the analysis of the collected data turns out to be at the core of the Big Data challenge. Automatic data mining and information retrieval techniques have made much progress but many application scenarios remain in which the human in the loop plays an essential role. Consequently, interactive visualization techniques have become a key discipline of Big Data analysis and the field is reaching out to many new application domains. This talk will give examples from current visualization research projects at the University of Stuttgart demonstrating the thematic breadth of application scenarios and the technical depth of the employed methods. We will cover advances in scientific visualization of fields and particles, visual analytics of document collections and movement patterns as well as cognitive aspects.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

  • Gerard Pons-Moll
  • MPH Lecture Hall

Significant progress has been made over the last years in estimating people's shape and motion from video and nonetheless the problem still remains unsolved. This is especially true in uncontrolled environments such as people in the streets or the office where background clutter and occlusions make the problem even more challenging.
The goal of our research is to develop computational methods that enable human pose estimation from video and inertial sensors in indoor and outdoor environments. Specifically, I will focus on one of our past projects in which we introduce a hybrid Human Motion Capture system that combines video input with sparse inertial sensor input. Employing a particle-based optimization scheme, our idea is to use orientation cues derived from the inertial input to sample particles from the manifold of valid poses. Additionally, we introduce a novel sensor noise model to account for uncertainties based on the von Mises-Fisher distribution. Doing so, orientation constraints are naturally fulfilled and the number of needed particles can be kept very small. More generally, our method can be used to sample poses that fulfill arbitrary orientation or positional kinematic constraints. In the experiments, we show that our system can track even highly dynamic motions in an outdoor environment with changing illumination, background clutter, and shadows.


What Make Big Visual Data Hard?

Talk
  • 29 April 2013 • 13:15:00
  • Alexei Efros
  • MPH Lecture Hall

There are an estimated 3.5 trillion photographs in the world, of which 10% have been taken in the past 12 months. Facebook alone reports 6 billion photo uploads per month. Every minute, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Cisco estimates that in the next few years, visual data (photos and video) will account for over 85% of total internet traffic. Yet, we currently lack effective computational methods for making sense of all this mass of visual data. Unlike easily indexed content, such as text, visual content is not routinely searched or mined; it's not even hyperlinked. Visual data is Internet's "digital dark matter" [Perona,2010] -- it's just sitting there!

In this talk, I will first discuss some of the unique challenges that make Big Visual Data difficult compared to other types of content. In particular, I will argue that the central problem is the lack a good measure of similarity for visual data. I will then present some of our recent work that aims to address this challenge in the context of visual matching, image retrieval and visual data mining. As an application of the latter, we used Google Street View data for an entire city in an attempt to answer that age-old question which has been vexing poets (and poets-turned-geeks): "What makes Paris look like Paris?"


  • Cristobal Curio

Studying the interface between artificial and biological vision has been an area of research that has been greatly promoted for a long time. It seems promising that cognitive science can provide new ideas to interface computer vision and human perception, yet no established design principles do exist. In the first part of my talk I am going to introduce the novel concept of 'object detectability'. Object detectability refers to a measure of how likely a human observer is visually aware of the location and presence of specific object types in a complex, dynamic, urban scene.

We have shown a proof of concept of how to maximize human observers' scene awareness in a dynamic driving context. Nonlinear functions are learnt from experimental samples of a combined feature vector of human gaze and visual features mapping to object detectabilities. We obtain object detectabilities through a detection experiment, simulating a proxy task of distracted real-world driving. In order to specifically enhance overall pedestrian detectability in a dynamic scene, the sum of individual detectability predictors defines a complex cost function that we seek to optimize with respect to human gaze. Results show significantly increased human scene awareness in hazardous test situations comparing optimized gaze and random fixation. Thus, our approach can potentially help a driver to save reaction time and resolve a risky maneuvre. In our framework, the remarkable ability of the human visual system to detect specific objects in the periphery has been implicitly characterized by our perceptual detectability task and has thus been taken into account.

The framework may provide a foundation for future work to determine what kind of information a Computer Vision system should process reliably, e.g. certain pose or motion features, in order to optimally alert a driver in time-critical situations. Dynamic image data was taken from the Caltech Pedestrian database. I will conclude with a brief overview of recent work, including a new circular output random regression forest for continuous object viewpoint estimation and a novel learning-based, monocular odometry approach based on robust LVMs and sensorimotor learning, offering stable 3D information integration. Last but not least, I present results of a perception experiment to quantify emotion in estimated facial movement synergy components that can be exploited to control emotional content of 3D avatars in a perceptually meaningful way.

This work was done in particular with David Engel (now a Post-Doc at M.I.T.), Christian Herdtweck (a PhD student at MPI Biol. Cybernetics), and in collaboration with Prof. Martin A. Giese and Dr. Enrico Chiovetto, Center for Integrated Neuroscience, Tübingen.


  • Oisin Mac Aodha

We present a supervised learning based method to estimate a per-pixel confidence for optical flow vectors. Regions of low texture and pixels close to occlusion boundaries are known to be difficult for optical flow algorithms. Using a spatiotemporal feature vector, we estimate if a flow algorithm is likely to fail in a given region.

Our method is not restricted to any specific class of flow algorithm, and does not make any scene specific assumptions. By automatically learning this confidence we can combine the output of several computed flow fields from different algorithms to select the best performing algorithm per pixel. Our optical flow confidence measure allows one to achieve better overall results by discarding the most troublesome pixels. We illustrate the effectiveness of our method on four different optical flow algorithms over a variety of real and synthetic sequences. For algorithm selection, we achieve the top overall results on a large test set, and at times even surpasses the results of the best algorithm among the candidates.


  • Andreas Müller

Semantic image segmentation is the task of assigning semantic labels to the pixels of a natural image. It is an important step towards general scene understanding and has lately received much attention in the computer vision community. It was found that detailed annotation of images are helpful for solving this task, but obtaining accurate and consistent annotations still proves to be difficult on a large scale. One possible way forward is to work with partial supervision and latent variable models to infer semantic annotations from the data during training.

The talk will present two approaches working with partial supervision for image segmentation. The first uses an efficient multi-instance formulation to obtain object class segmentations when trained on class labels alone. The second uses a latent CRF formulation to extract object parts based on object class segmentation.


From Particle Stereo to Scene Stereo

Talk
  • 25 February 2013
  • Carsten Rother

In this talk I will present two lines of research which are both applied to the problem of stereo matching. The first line of research tries to make progress on the very traditional problem of stereo matching. In BMVC 11 we presented the PatchmatchStereo work which achieves surprisingly good results with a simple energy function consisting of unary terms only. As optimization engine we used the PatchMatch method, which was designed for image editing purposes. In BMVC 12 we extended this work by adding to the energy function the standard pairwise smoothness terms. The main contribution of this work is the optimization technique, which we call PatchMatch-BeliefPropagation (PMBP). It is a special case of max-product Particle Belief Propagation, with a new sampling schema motivated by Patchmatch.

The method may be suitable for many energy minimization problems in computer vision, which have a non-convex, continuous and potentially high-dimensional label space. The second line of research combines the problem of stereo matching with the problem of object extracting in the scene. We show that both tasks can be solved jointly and boost the performance of each individual task. In particular, stereo matching improves since objects have to obey physical properties, e.g. they are not allowed to fly in the air. Object extracting improves, as expected, since we have additional information about depth in the scene.


  • 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.