Recognizing Material Properties from Images

9 Jan 2018  ·  Gabriel Schwartz, Ko Nishino ·

Humans rely on properties of the materials that make up objects to guide our interactions with them. Grasping smooth materials, for example, requires care, and softness is an ideal property for fabric used in bedding. Even when these properties are not visual (e.g. softness is a physical property), we may still infer their presence visually. We refer to such material properties as visual material attributes. Recognizing these attributes in images can contribute valuable information for general scene understanding and material recognition. Unlike well-known object and scene attributes, visual material attributes are local properties with no fixed shape or spatial extent. We show that given a set of images annotated with known material attributes, we may accurately recognize the attributes from small local image patches. Obtaining such annotations in a consistent fashion at scale, however, is challenging. To address this, we introduce a method that allows us to probe the human visual perception of materials by asking simple yes/no questions comparing pairs of image patches. This provides sufficient weak supervision to build a set of attributes and associated classifiers that, while unnamed, serve the same function as the named attributes we use to describe materials. Doing so allows us to recognize visual material attributes without resorting to exhaustive manual annotation of a fixed set of named attributes. Furthermore, we show that this method may be integrated in the end-to-end learning of a material classification CNN to simultaneously recognize materials and discover their visual attributes. Our experimental results show that visual material attributes, whether named or automatically discovered, provide a useful intermediate representation for known material categories themselves as well as a basis for transfer learning when recognizing previously-unseen categories.

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