Modelling and unsupervised learning of symmetric deformable object categories

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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James Thewlis, Hakan Bilen, Andrea Vedaldi


We propose a new approach to model and learn, without manual supervision, the symmetries of natural objects, such as faces or flowers, given only images as input. It is well known that objects that have a symmetric structure do not usually result in symmetric images due to articulation and perspective effects. This is often tackled by seeking the intrinsic symmetries of the underlying 3D shape, which is very difficult to do when the latter cannot be recovered reliably from data. We show that, if only raw images are given, it is possible to look instead for symmetries in the space of object deformations. We can then learn symmetries from an unstructured collection of images of the object as an extension of the recently-introduced object frame representation, modified so that object symmetries reduce to the obvious symmetry groups in the normalized space. We also show that our formulation provides an explanation of the ambiguities that arise in recovering the pose of symmetric objects from their shape or images and we provide a way of discounting such ambiguities in learning.