The human visual system processes vast amounts of incoming information and performs multiple complex visual tasks with perceived efficacy and ease. However, it is well known that not only are humans capacity-limited perceivers [Broadbent(1958)], but also that the vision problem in general is computationally intractable [Tsotsos(1990)]. Instead of inspecting every element of a scene, humans use a set of attention mechanisms to prioritize and filter stimuli from the early visual processing stages through to the higher visual areas. The ability to use perceived saliency of objects for efficient scanning of the scene is one of the fundamental attention mechanisms.
Computational approaches to predicting human judgements of saliency have resulted in an extensive corpus of saliency models. The evaluation for these models in recent years has been conducted using a number of metrics for fixation prediction [Bylinskii et al.()Bylinskii, Judd, Borji, Itti, Durand, Oliva, and Torralba], however, such heavy focus on gaze prediction fails to address extensive research in psychology and neuroscience which has catalogued and quantified many aspects of human visual attention [Bruce et al.(2015)Bruce, Wloka, Frosst, Rahman, and Tsotsos].
One area well studied in psychology is visual search, frequently associated with Feature Integration Theory (FIT) [Treisman and Gelade(1980)]. FIT posits that items that differ significantly in one feature dimension are processed in a parallel manner, whereas an item uniquely defined by a combination of features requires a serial search through items. Wolfe [Wolfe(1998a), Wolfe and Horowitz(2017)], on the other hand, notes that the parallel/serial dichotomy of FIT is better represented as a continuum of search efficiencies. In other words, if the difference between the target and surrounding distractors is sufficiently large, the target will be immediately detected (“pop-out”), otherwise as the target-distractor difference decreases search becomes increasingly inefficient [Wolfe(1998b), Wloka et al.(2017)Wloka, Yoo, Sengupta, and Tsotsos].
). Thus, given its conceptual importance to the topic of saliency, here we propose two new datasets with synthetic and natural odd-one-out targets and a large-scale comparative study that systematically evaluates the responses of classical and deep-learning saliency models to these types of stimuli. These results not only identify and quantify remaining gaps between human and algorithmic performance in visual search, but also have significant practical ramifications. Currently, saliency models are being applied in commercial areas, such as the design of marketing materials (e.g[Pieters et al.(2007)Pieters, Wedel, and Zhang, van der Lans et al.(2008)van der Lans, Pieters, and Wedel, Rosenholtz et al.(2011)Rosenholtz, Dorai, and Freeman, 3M (2015), Wästlund et al.(2018)Wästlund, Shams, and Otterbring]), where strong discrimination of specific information or products is a clearly stated goal. Thus the inadequate performance of saliency models on a range of realistic odd-one-out targets revealed by our evaluations highlights urgent new research avenues for these application areas.
1.1 Relevant Works
Psychophysical Evaluation of Saliency Models. Although a number of saliency models present qualitative results on a small set of synthetic stimuli, such as color/orientation singletons, Q/O and visual search asymmetries [Bruce and Tsotsos(2007b), Hou and Zhang(2007), Zhang et al.(2008)Zhang, Tong, Marks, Shan, and Cottrell, Seo and Milanfar(2009), Goferman et al.(2012)Goferman, Zelnik-Manor, and Tal, Erdem and Erdem(2013), Hou et al.(2012)Hou, Harel, and Koch, Riche et al.(2013)Riche, Mancas, Duvinage, Mibulumukini, Gosselin, and Dutoit, Kümmerer et al.(2014)Kümmerer, Theis, and Bethge, Vig et al.(2014)Vig, Dorr, and Cox, Huang et al.(2015)Huang, Shen, Boix, and Zhao, Bruce et al.(2016)Bruce, Catton, and Janjic, Kümmerer et al.(2017)Kümmerer, Wallis, Gatys, and Bethge], only a few have been systematically evaluated on the psychophysical patterns used in human experiments. For instance, IKN has been evaluated on color/orientation pop-out search and conjunctive search [Itti and Koch(2000)], AWS and Discriminant Saliency were tested on non-linearity of pop-out for orientation and various search asymmetries [Garcia-Diaz et al.(2012)Garcia-Diaz, Fdez-Vidal, Pardo, and Dosil, Gao et al.(2008)Gao, Mahadevan, and Vasconcelos].
Bruce et al. [Bruce et al.(2015)Bruce, Wloka, Frosst, Rahman, and Tsotsos] discussed a range of psyhological factors influencing visual saliency and their modeling implications. Additionally, several studies systematically compared the performance of multiple saliency algorithms against one another and human gaze data. Borji et al. [Borji et al.(2013)Borji, Sihite, and Itti] conducted a quantitative analysis of 35 classical saliency models over 54 synthetic patterns from the CAT2000 dataset [Borji and Itti(2015)] and compared them to human fixation data. Wloka et al. [Wloka et al.(2016)Wloka, Yoo, Sengupta, Kunic, and Tsotsos] compared human response time data against a set of classical saliency models on singleton search with oriented bars. More recently, Berga et al. [Berga and Otazu(2018)] evaluated a large set of models (both classical and deep) on CAT2000/Pattern image set and synthetic patterns [Berga et al.(2019)Berga, Fdez-Vidal, Otazu, Leborán, and Pardo].
Together these studies suggest that no existing saliency model accounts for most of the identified saliency phenomena, although there is evidence that models based on the FIT framework [Treisman and Gelade(1980)] may perform better on synthetic images [Borji et al.(2013)Borji, Sihite, and Itti]. While pointing to the same conclusion, these studies are difficult to compare directly as they all use different metrics, sets of algorithms and datasets for evaluation.
Psychophysical Patterns and Odd-One-Out Images in Datasets. Datasets typically used in saliency research include only a handful of synthetic psychophysical patterns, if any. For instance, the Toronto dataset [Bruce and Tsotsos(2007a)] includes 16 such cases out of 136 images, MIT1003 [Judd et al.(2009)Judd, Ehinger, Durand, and Torralba] has 4 patterns out of 1003 and CAT2000/Patterns image set [Borji and Itti(2015)] has 71 synthetic patterns out of 2000. The recently proposed SID4VAM dataset [Berga et al.(2019)Berga, Fdez-Vidal, Otazu, Leborán, and Pardo] provides human fixation data for 230 synthetic patterns covering 16 different stimuli types. However, since human participants were given task instructions, this data is not directly comparable with the free-viewing conditions under which saliency models are more typically tested.
Odd-one-out images, which can be thought of as realistic counterparts to psychophysical patterns (see Figure 2), are also rarely found in fixation datasets. Out of 9 datasets that we examined none contained a significant portion of these types of stimuli, e.gonly 3 such images in the MIT1003 dataset (1003 images), 19 in DUT-OMRON (5168 images) [Yang et al.(2013)Yang, Zhang, Lu, Ruan, and Yang] and 33 in SALICON (20K images)[Jiang et al.(2015)Jiang, Huang, Duan, and Zhao] (see the supplementary material for a complete list).
Contributions. We address the research challenges described above by providing the four following contributions: 1) a large dataset of synthetic search arrays and a set of tools for analysis and evaluation of saliency models; 2) a large annotated dataset of images with odd-one-out objects captured “in the wild”; 3) extensive analysis of saliency algorithms with respect to several features known to guide human attention; 4) experiments showin the impact of augmenting training data with synthetic and/or real images on the performance of the CNN-based models on odd-one-out task and fixation prediction.
2 Psychophysical Patterns (P) Dataset
We propose a large dataset of psychophysical patterns (P) for evaluating the ability of saliency algorithms to find singleton targets. We focus on color, orientation, and size: three features recognized as undoubted attention guiding attributes [Wolfe and Horowitz(2017)] (see Figure 1).
All visual search arrays in the P dataset are on a regular grid with distractor size 75 px (2) and target size between 18 px (0.5) and 140 px (4). The target location in the grid is selected at random. Jitter of 15 px is applied to each element (as recommended in [Arun(2012)] to avoid perceptual grouping effects). The size of images () matches the setup of MIT300 [Bylinskii et al.()Bylinskii, Judd, Borji, Itti, Durand, Oliva, and Torralba] (35 px per degree of visual angle and image sizes of 7681024). Each image has a corresponding ground truth mask for the target and distractors. There are a total of 2514 images in P including 810 color, 864 orientation and 840 size search arrays. Further details on how the images are generated can be found in the supplementary material.
3 Odd-One-Out (O) Dataset
In addition to the psychophysical arrays, we propose a dataset of realistic odd-one-out stimuli gathered “in the wild”. Each image in the novel Odd-One-Out (O) dataset depicts a scene with multiple objects similar to each other in appearance (distractors) and a singleton (target) which usually belongs to the same general object category as distractors but stands out with respect to one or more feature dimensions (e.g. color, shape, size) as shown in Figure 2.
The O dataset consists of 2001 images with the larger image dimension set to 1024 to match the setup of MIT300, as most saliency models used for evaluation are optimized for it. Each image is annotated with segmentation masks for targets and distractors as well as text labels for the following: type of the target object, number of distractors and pop-out features (color, pattern/texture, shape, size, orientation, focus and location).
Targets in the O dataset represent nearly 400 common object types such as flowers, sweets, chicken eggs, leaves, tiles and birds. Due to the importance of color as an attention guiding feature [Wolfe(2010)] the dataset contains many color singletons. Specifically, 37% of all targets differ by color alone and 47% differ by color and one or more additional feature dimension. In addition, 33% of the targets are distinct in texture, 26% in shape, 19% in size and 8% in orientation. The targets vary considerably in size: approximately 80% of the targets occupy between 7% and 20% of the image by area, 30% of the targets are larger and few take up to 80% of the image. All targets are accompanied by at least 2 distractors, with half of the targets surrounded by at least 10 distractors and 10% by over 50 distractors.
Metrics. Reaction time (RT) is a primary metric of human performance reported in the psychophysical literature (e.g[Wolfe(1994), Wolfe(1998a), Arun(2012)]). Although RT cannot be directly measured from saliency maps, there is a link between reaction time and the relative salience of targets and distractors [Töllner et al.(2011)Töllner, Zehetleitner, Gramann, and Müller, Zehetleitner et al.(2013)Zehetleitner, Koch, Goschy, and Müller]. We therefore use several proxy measures: the number of fixations before reaching the target, global saliency index (GSI), and the saliency ratio (SR).
Number of fixations. To produce fixations from a saliency map we iterate through maxima and suppress attended locations with a circular mask (as in [Wloka et al.(2018a)Wloka, Kotseruba, and Tsotsos]) until a location near the target is reached or a maximum number of fixations is exceeded. The circular mask has a 1 radius which corresponds to the size of distractors in all images.
There is no definition of how close to the target the fixation should land in order to be considered as a hit. Values reported in the literature vary from 1 [Becker(2008), Becker(2013), Becker(2010)] to 2 [Tseng et al.(2014)Tseng, Glaser, Caddigan, and Lleras] or up to 2.35 [Becker and Ansorge(2013)] radius around the center of the target. In our experiments we set the radius to 1 around the center of the target and up to 2 for larger stimuli in size patterns.
Global Saliency Index. The metric is defined as , where and are the average saliency values within the target and distractor masks respectively [Spratling(2012), Soltani and Koch(2010)]. GSI measures how well the target is distinguished from the distractors and varies between -1 (target saliency is 0, only distractors are highlighted) to 1 (only the target is highlighted).
Saliency Ratio. Due to the highly varying target-distractor sizes and configurations in real pop-out images in the O dataset, both the GSI and fixations-to-target metrics become challenging to apply. We, therefore, use a more straightforward ratio of maximum saliency of the target vs maximum saliency of the distractors as in [Wloka et al.(2016)Wloka, Yoo, Sengupta, Kunic, and Tsotsos] and the same for the background vs target, referred to in the text as MSR and MSR respectively. Since most practical applications require locations of maxima within saliency maps, these two metrics help determine whether the target is more salient than the surrounding distractors and background.
Saliency Models and Datasets. For all experiments that follow we use 12 classical saliency models (AIM [Bruce and Tsotsos(2006)], BMS [Zhang and Sclaroff(2013)], CVS [Erdem and Erdem(2013)], DVA [Hou and Zhang(2009)], FES [Tavakoli et al.(2011)Tavakoli, Rahtu, and Heikkilä], GBVS [Harel et al.(2007)Harel, Koch, and Perona], IKN [Itti et al.(1998)Itti, Koch, and Niebur], IMSIG [Hou et al.(2012)Hou, Harel, and Koch], LDS [Fang et al.(2017)Fang, Li, Tian, Huang, and Chen], RARE2012 [Riche et al.(2013)Riche, Mancas, Duvinage, Mibulumukini, Gosselin, and Dutoit], SSR [Seo and Milanfar(2009)] and SUN [Zhang et al.(2008)Zhang, Tong, Marks, Shan, and Cottrell]) and 8 deep learning models (DGII [Kümmerer et al.(2016)Kümmerer, Wallis, and Bethge], DVAP [Wang and Shen(2018)], eDN [Vig et al.(2014)Vig, Dorr, and Cox], ICF [Kümmerer et al.(2017)Kümmerer, Wallis, Gatys, and Bethge], MLNet [Cornia et al.(2016)Cornia, Baraldi, Serra, and Cucchiara], oSALICON [Huang et al.(2015)Huang, Shen, Boix, and Zhao, Thomas(2016)], SalGAN [Pan et al.(2017)Pan, Canton, McGuinness, O’Connor, Torres, Sayrol, and Giro-i Nieto] and SAM-ResNet [Cornia et al.(2018)Cornia, Baraldi, Serra, and Cucchiara]). We use the SMILER framework [Wloka et al.(2018b)Wloka, Kunić, Kotseruba, Fahimi, Frosst, Bruce, and Tsotsos] to run all models without center bias on P and with center bias on O. Default values for other parameters (including smoothing) were kept. We evaluate all models on P, O and CAT2000/Pattern.
4.1 Evaluation of Saliency Models
4.1.1 Psychophysical Evaluation of Saliency Models
Evaluating models on psychophysical search arrays allows us to measure their response to basic attention guiding features and determine whether they capture known properties of the human visual system.
Target detection rate. To measure the strength of attention guidance we count the total number of targets detected and the average number of fixations required to do so. The relationship between these quantities is shown Figure 3(a). When the maximum number of fixations is set to 100 (or the number of elements in the grid), several classical algorithms (BMS, IMSIG, and RARE2012) achieve success rate above 90% and only one deep-learning model (DGII) comes close to the 90% mark. Note that the performance of nearly all models degrades quickly when the allowed number of fixations is reduced.
The same evaluation applied to human fixation maps for 51 singleton patterns from the CAT2000/Pattern yields 98% target detection rate and 13 fixations on average. Note that the CAT2000 data is not directly comparable with P in image size and stimuli used. However, even when the maximum number of fixations is set to 25 (equivalent to examining half of the elements in the grid), most saliency algorithms miss of the targets in the P dataset and only one model, IMSIG, detects slightly more than 80% of singletons.
Response to simple features. As shown in Figure 3(b), the performance of most models varies significantly depending on the type of stimuli they are applied to. There are, however, several exceptions, namely IMSIG, SSR, CVS, LDS and DGII, which perform equally well or equally poorly on all three types of singletons. In general, orientation and color targets appear to be easier to detect for many of the models and especially for those models that process these features explicitly, e.gRARE2012, BMS, AIM. Size targets are missed more often, even by the models that do multi-scale processing (e.gRARE2012, IKN, MLNet).
Sensitivity to target-distractor similarity. It has been established that visual search efficiency improves as the target-distractor (TD) difference increases [Wolfe and Horowitz(2004)]. Above a certain value, the pop-out effect can be observed, i.e. the target is found in nearly constant time (or only few fixations) regardless of the number of the distractors.
The plots in Figure 4 visualize the discriminative ability of saliency algorithms for a range of TD differences in color, orientation and size. Due to the space limitations, we only show and discuss the 3 best classical and deep models for each feature type. The plots with GSI measures and fixation counts for all models can be found in the supplementary material.
Color singletons. Among the classical models, only IMSIG has a resemblance to human behavior on color stimuli (Figure 4(a)). It has more difficulty distinguishing similar colors and gradually improves as the TD difference increases. However, the behavior of IMSIG is not consistent as indicated by the dips in the GSI plot. Two other classical algorithms, BMS and RARE2012, nearly perfectly find even the smallest differences in hue and detect targets in fewer than 10 fixations on average. Note also very clear discrimination of the targets in the saliency maps (see Figure 4(d)). ICF, the only CNN-based model that explicitly includes color contrast features, shows a tendency of improving on larger TD differences but is less consistent (note the spikes around 80 and 150). oSALICON and MLNet both have low GSI scores for all TD differences and need more than 50 fixations on average to find even the most salient targets.
Orientation singletons. The GSI scores for orientation targets are nearly an order of magnitude lower than scores for color targets as shown in Figure 4(b). Here, the top-3 classical models, AIM, SUN and BMS, do not discriminate the targets well. Only AIM has a GSI score consistently above 0 and takes only a few fixations on average to reach the target. SUN and BMS have less consistent GSI scores and perfom 30 fixations to find targets regardless of TD difference. Deep models MLNet and oSALICON detect more distinct targets better (with spikes around 60 and 70) but require at least fixations on average.
Size singletons. Similar to color and orientation features, we expect that the targets closest to the size of the distractors would be more difficult to find, while very small and very large targets should ‘pop’ easily. Unlike orientation and color, most classical algorithms do not encode size explicitly as a feature but may handle it indirectly via multi-scale processing. Here, IMSIG, SSR and RARE2012 exhibit anticipated behavior to some extent, having higher GSI for larger TD differences (Figure 4(c)). Interestingly, deep learning models eDN and oSALICON demonstrate almost the opposite of the human behavior as their GSI scores drop for larger targets. Another deep model, ICF, has negative GSI scores for the whole range of TD differences, meaning that the target is consistently less salient than the distractors on average, as can be seen in the sample saliency maps shown in Figure 4(d).
Based on the evidence presented we conclude that the majority of saliency models are not guided by attributes such as color, orientation and size which have an undoubted impact on human attention [Wolfe and Horowitz(2017)]. Several classical algorithms (e.gIMSIG, RARE2012 and AIM) are guided by some of the basic features, but none of them respond to all three features considered. In comparison to classical models, deep algorithms have lower discriminative ability and are less consistent in finding singletons.
4.1.2 Evaluation of Saliency Models on Odd-One-Out Data
Unlike the psychophysical evaluation that focused on how well the saliency models capture fundamental properties of the human visual system, testing models on the O data aims to examine their behavior in more realistic scenarios. To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first work that addresses detection of singletons by saliency algorithms in realistic stimuli.
|Model||Color targets||Non-color targets||All targets|
Due to space limitations, we report results only for the top-3 classical and deep models (Table 1) and present complete results in the supplementary material. Given that the majority of targets in the O dataset differ in several feature dimensions we do not list all possible combinations and discuss only subsets which do or do not differ in color since the presence of a color feature dominates other features during visual search [Kaptein et al.(1995)Kaptein, Theeuwes, and Van der Heijden].
First, we observe that for the classical models there is some correlation between performance on P and O. For instance, BMS, ranks high on both. This model, which by design handles color features well, particularly benefits from an abundance of color targets in O. Interestingly, some deep models that performed well on P showed worse results on O and vice versa. In fact, SAM-ResNet which is ranked first in Table 1 ranks second to last on P (see Figure 3(a)). One possible reason for such discrepancy is that SAM by design learns a strong center bias prior which works against it on P, where target distribution is uniform, but is an advantage on natural image datasets like O which are usually more center-biased.
All models discriminate color targets better than targets that differ in other feature dimensions, as indicated by low MSR values for non-color singletons in Table 1 (see sample images and saliency maps in Figure 5). As shown in Figure 5 the majority (80%) of non-color targets have an average MSR compared to only 30% of color targets.
Classical and deep models discriminate 55% and 45% of all targets respectively. Deep models strongly discriminate only 15% of the images (MSR is ) compared to 10% for classical models. However, for all models the average MSR scores are higher than the MSR scores (Table 1), i.e. saliency maxima in the background are higher than the maxima within the target mask meaning that these models get distracted by the background.
The results presented show that the inability of saliency models to adequately respond to singletons extends beyond synthetic stimuli and is also apparent in more realistic scenarios. This not only suggests the need for changes in algorithm design but also has ramifications for the use of these computational models in practical applications mentioned in Section 1.
4.1.3 Training Saliency Models on P and O Data
As mentioned in Section 1.1, fixation datasets contain a negligibly small portion of synthetic and real odd-one-out stimuli. Only CAT2000 has 4% synthetic patterns but is rarely used for training. Specifically, only the SAM model is trained on CAT2000. Here, we conduct a simple test to determine whether the struggle of deep learning models to detect singletons in synthetic and real images can be corrected by augmenting the training data. We select MLNet and SALICON for further experimentation111MLNet, SAM and SALICON are the only models with publicly available training code, however SAM also requires fixation points for training which are not available for P and O . We use our own implementation of SALICON since open-source code
. We use our own implementation of SALICON since open-source code[Thomas(2016)] did not reproduce published results (see the supplementary material)..
We follow the original training procedures and only modify the training data. For MLNet we add 1553 P and/or 1200 O images to its training set of 10K images from the SALICON dataset. We augment the smaller OSIE dataset (700 images) used for training the SALICON model by adding 100 and 76 images from P and O respectively, thus matching the proportion of extra P and O data of 16% and 12%, respectively, for both models. We also train both models only on P and O to test whether the task can be learned from these examples. We use target binary masks as a substitute for human fixation maps. We evaluate models on 518 P images and 401 O images not used for training and on the MIT1003 dataset.
Table 2 summarizes the results of training MLNet and SALICON on various combinations of the original training data and data from P and O. According to the evaluation against human fixations for the MIT1003 dataset (which is a reasonable approximation of performance on the MIT300 benchmark), augmenting training data with P and/or O patterns does not have a significant effect on fixation prediction accuracy. Both models generally do not learn well from the P data alone and results are the worst overall. The O training data results in the best performance on the O test data, which is expected, but also leads to relatively high performance on the MIT1003 data as well as P patterns. One possible explanation for the poor performance from P compared to O is that synthetic stimuli considerably differ in appearance from natural images making it difficult for CNN-based models to effectively leverage object representaions learnt in object classification (e.gVGG[Simonyan and Zisserman(2014)]).
|AUC_Judd||CC||KLDiv||NSS||SIM||Avg. num. fix.||% found||MSR||MSR|
The best results are achieved when O is mixed with the original training set for both models. Note that training on the O data leads to the highest MSR and MSR > MSR for both MLNet and SALICON models, meaning that they somewhat improved their ability to distinguish targets and are less distracted by the objects in the background.
Our experiment shows that only minor improvements can be achieved by augmenting the training datasets with odd-one-out data and suggests that other factors might be at play. This is in agreement with literature exploring the behavior of deep-learning models in a related category of tasks requiring comparisons between items (e.gthe same-different task to determine whether the presented objects are the same or not). These works explore a range of architectures and determine that even training on datasets several orders of magnitude larger than ours does not bring these models close to human-level [Stabinger et al.(2016)Stabinger, Rodríguez-Sánchez, and Piater, Gülçehre and Bengio(2016), Kim et al.(2018)Kim, Ricci, and Serre]. In particular, in [Kim et al.(2018)Kim, Ricci, and Serre] the authors hypothesize that feedforward architectures lack mechanisms for binding features to individuated objects which makes them struggle with these types of tasks. However, further research is needed to determine whether these conclusions can be extended to the odd-one-out detection task.
Despite saturated performance on common benchmarks, most classical and deep models still do not adequately model fundamental attention guiding mechanisms. Using two newly proposed datasets, P and O, we systematically examined the performance of the saliency algorithms on synthetic stimuli similar to the ones used in human research and on a large collection of realistic odd-one-out images. We showed that several classical models discriminate targets in some of the feature dimensions considered and also perform better on average than the CNN-based models. However, a large gap remains between human and algorithm performance both quantitatively and qualitatively. We also showed that augmenting training data for two CNN-based saliency models or training them exclusively on P and O images does not significantly improve their ability to discriminate singletons and has only a minor positive effect on fixation prediction accuracy, which requires further investigation.
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