Optimal visual search based on a model of target detectability in natural images

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Shima Rashidi, Krista Ehinger, Andrew Turpin, Lars Kulik


To analyse visual systems, the concept of an ideal observer promises an optimal response for a given task. Bayesian ideal observers can provide optimal responses under uncertainty, if they are given the true distributions as input. In visual search tasks, prior studies have used signal to noise ratio (SNR) or psychophysics experiments to set the distributional parameters for simple targets on backgrounds with known patterns, however these methods do not easily translate to complex targets on natural scenes. Here, we develop a model of target detectability in natural images to estimate the parameters of target-present and target-absent distributions for a visual search task. We present a novel approach for approximating the foveated detectability of a known target in natural backgrounds based on biological aspects of human visual system. Our model considers both the uncertainty about target position and the visual system's variability due to its reduced performance in the periphery compared to the fovea. Our automated prediction algorithm uses trained logistic regression as a post processing phase of a pre-trained deep neural network. Eye tracking data from 12 observers detecting targets on natural image backgrounds are used as ground truth to tune foveation parameters and evaluate the model, using cross-validation. Finally, the model of target detectability is used in a Bayesian ideal observer model of visual search, and compared to human search performance.