Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Vapnik's picture explained



This is an extremely geek picture! :) Let's try to explain it:

First of all, as many of you know, the gentleman in the picture is Prof. Vladimir Vapnik. He is famous for his fundamental contributions to the field of Statistical Learning Theory, such as the Empirical Risk Minimization (ERM) principle, VC-dimension and Support Vector Machines.

Then we notice the sentence in the board: it resembles the famous "All your base are belong to us"! This is a piece of geek culture that emerged after a "broken English" translation of a Japanese video game for Sega Mega Drive .



Wait, but they replaced the word "Base" by "Bayes"!?
Yes, that Bayes, the British mathematician known for the Bayes' theorem.
Okay, seems fair enough, we are dealing with people from statistics...

By the moment we think things can not get more geeky, we realize there is scary inequality written on the top of the white board:

My goodness, what's this?! Okay, that's when things get really technical:
This is a probabilistic bound for the expected risk of a classifier under the ERM framework. In simple terms, it relates the classifier's expected test error with the training error on a dataset of size l and in which the cardinality of the set of loss functions is N.
If I'm not mistaken, the bound holds with probability (1 - eta) and applies only to loss functions bounded above by 1.

Sweet! Now that we got the parts, what's the big message?

Well, it's basically a statement about the superiority of Vapnik's learning theory over the Bayesian alternative. In a nutshell, the Bayesian perspective is that we start with some prior distribution over a set of hypothesis (our beliefs) and we update these according to the data that we see. We then look for an optimal decision rule based on the posterior distribution.
On the other hand, in Vapnik's framework there are no explicit priors neither we try to estimate the probability distribution of the data. This is motivated by the fact that density estimation is a ill-posed problem, and therefore we want to avoid this intermediate step. The goal is to directly minimize the probability of making bad decision in the future. If implemented through Support Vector Machines, this boils down to finding the decision boundary with maximal margin to separate the classes.

And that's it, folks! I hope you had fun decoding this image! :)

Computer Vision vs Computer Graphics

If I had to explain what computer vision is all about, in just one snapshot, I would show you this:




Computer Graphics algorithms go from the parameter space to the image space (rendering), computer vision algorithms do the opposite (inverse-rendering). Because of this, computer vision is basically a (very hard) problem of statistical inference.
The common approach nowadays is to build a classifier for each kind of object and then search over (part of) the parameter space explicitly, normally by scanning the image for all possible locations and scales. The remaining challenge is still huge: how can a classifier learn and generalize, from a finite set of examples, what are the fundamental characteristics of an object (shape, color) and what is irrelevant (changes in illumination, rotations, translations, occlusions, etc.).
This is what is keeping us busy! ;)

PS - Note that changes in illumination induce apparent changes in the color of the object and rotations induce apparent changes in shape!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stationary Features - Google Tech Talk

Fran├žois Fleuret, my PhD advisor, recently gave a talk about object detection at Google (Zurich offices).
You can now see it online:




If you wonder where my research will try to extend the work done so far, just go to minute 45:30!