Robust Face Detection via Learning Small Faces on Hard Images

Zhishuai Zhang, Wei Shen, Siyuan Qiao, Yan Wang, Bo Wang, Alan Yuille; Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV), 2020, pp. 1361-1370


Recent anchor-based deep face detectors have achieved promising performance, but they are still struggling to detect hard faces, such as small, blurred and partially occluded faces. One reason is that they treat all images and faces equally, and ignore the imbalance between easy images and hard images; however large amounts of training images only contain easy faces, which are less helpful to learn robust detectors for hard faces. In this paper, we propose that the robustness of a face detector against hard faces can be improved by learning small faces on hard images. Our intuitions are (1) hard images are the images which contain at least one hard face, thus they facilitate training robust face detectors; (2) most hard faces are small faces and other types of hard faces can be easily shrunk to small faces. To this end, we build an anchor-based deep face detector, which only outputs a single high-resolution feature map with small anchors, to specifically learn small faces and train it by a novel hard image mining strategy which automatically adjusts training weights on images according to their difficulties. Extensive experiments have been conducted on WIDER FACE, FDDB, Pascal Faces, and AFW datasets and our method achieves APs of 95.7, 94.9 and 89.7 on easy, medium and hard WIDER FACE val dataset respectively, which verify the effectiveness of our methods, especially on detecting hard faces. Our detector is also lightweight and enjoys a fast inference speed. Code and model are available at

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author = {Zhang, Zhishuai and Shen, Wei and Qiao, Siyuan and Wang, Yan and Wang, Bo and Yuille, Alan},
title = {Robust Face Detection via Learning Small Faces on Hard Images},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV)},
month = {March},
year = {2020}