From pixels to gestures: learning visual representations for human analysis in color and depth data sequences

Antonio Hernandez-Vela


The visual analysis of humans from images is an important topic of interest due to  its relevance to many computer vision applications likepedestrian detection, monitoring and surveillance, human-computer interaction, e-health or content-based image retrieval, among others.

In this dissertation we are interested in learning different visual representations of the human body that are helpful for the visual analysis of humans in images and video sequences. To that end, we analyze both RGB and depth image modalities  and address the problem from three different research lines,  at different levels of abstraction; from pixels to gestures: human segmentation, human pose estimation and gesture recognition.

First, we show how binary segmentation (object vs. background)  of the human body in image sequences is helpful to remove all the background clutter present in the scene. The presented method, based on Graph cuts optimization, enforces spatio-temporal consistency of the produced segmentation masks among consecutive frames. Secondly, we present a framework for multi-label segmentation for obtaining much more detailed segmentation masks: instead of just obtaining a binary representation separating the human body from the background, finer segmentation masks can be obtained separating the different body parts.

At a higher level of abstraction, we aim for a simpler yet descriptive representation of the human body. Human pose estimation methods usually rely on skeletal models of the human body, formed by segments (or rectangles) that represent the body limbs, appropriately connected following the kinematic constraints of the human body. In practice, such skeletal models must fulfill some constraints in order to allow  for efficient inference, while actually limiting the expressiveness of the model. In order to cope with this, we introduce a top-down approach for predicting the position of the body parts in the model, using a mid-level part representation based on Poselets.

Finally, we propose a framework for gesture recognition based on the bag of visual words framework. We leverage the benefits of RGB and depth image modalities by combining modality-specific visual vocabularies in a late fusion fashion. A new rotation-variant depth descriptor is presented, yielding better results than other state-of-the-art descriptors. Moreover, spatio-temporal pyramids are used to  encode rough spatial and temporal structure. In addition, we present a probabilistic reformulation of Dynamic Time Warping for gesture segmentation in video sequences. A Gaussian-based probabilistic model of a gesture is learnt, implicitly encoding possible deformations in both spatial and time domains.


Computer Vision;Pattern recognition;Statistical Pattern Recognition;Classification and Clusttering;Separation and Segmentation;Face and Gesture;Human pose estimation;Recognition an finger and other body parts

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