Synthetic Examples Improve Generalization for Rare Classes

Sara Beery, Yang Liu, Dan Morris, Jim Piavis, Ashish Kapoor, Neel Joshi, Markus Meister, Pietro Perona; Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV), 2020, pp. 863-873


The ability to detect and classify rare occurrences in images has important applications -- for example, counting rare and endangered species when studying biodiversity, or detecting infrequent traffic scenarios that pose a danger to self-driving cars. Few-shot learning is an open problem: current computer vision systems struggle to categorize objects they have seen only rarely during training, and collecting a sufficient number of training examples of rare events is often challenging and expensive, and sometimes outright impossible. We explore in depth an approach to this problem: complementing the few available training images with ad-hoc simulated data. Our testbed is animal species classification, which has a real-world long-tailed distribution. We analyze the effect of different axes of variation in simulation, such as pose, lighting, model, and simulation method, and we prescribe best practices for efficiently incorporating simulated data for real-world performance gain. Our experiments reveal that synthetic data can considerably reduce error rates for classes that are rare, that as the amount of simulated data is increased, accuracy on the target class improves, and that high variation of simulated data provides maximum performance gain.

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author = {Beery, Sara and Liu, Yang and Morris, Dan and Piavis, Jim and Kapoor, Ashish and Joshi, Neel and Meister, Markus and Perona, Pietro},
title = {Synthetic Examples Improve Generalization for Rare Classes},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV)},
month = {March},
year = {2020}