Artificial Perceptual Learning: Image Categorization with Weak Supervision

Tian Zheng – Columbia University


Machine learning has achieved much success on supervised learning tasks with large sets of well-annotated training samples. However, in many practical situations, such strong and high-quality supervision provided by training data is unavailable due to the expensive and labor-intensive labeling process. Automatically identifying and recognizing object categories in a large volume of unlabeled images with weak supervision remains an important, yet unsolved challenge in computer vision. In this talk,  I present a novel machine learning framework,  artificial perceptual learning (APL), to tackle the problem of weakly supervised image categorization. The proposed APL framework is constructed using state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms as building blocks to mimic the cognitive development process known as infant categorization. We develop and illustrate the proposed framework by implementing a wide-field fine-grain ecological survey of tree species over an 8,000-hectare area of the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico. It is based on unlabeled high-resolution aerial images of the tree canopy. Misplaced ground-based labels were available for less than 1% of these images, which serve as the only weak supervision for this learning framework. We validate the proposed framework using a small set of images with high quality human annotations and show that the proposed framework attains human-level cognitive economy.

Short Bio

Tian Zheng is Professor and Department Chair of Statistics at Columbia University. She develops novel methods for exploring and understanding patterns in complex data from different application domains. Her current projects are in the fields of statistical machine learning, spatiotemporal modeling and social network analysis. Professor Zheng’s research has been recognized by the 2008 Outstanding Statistical Application Award from the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Mitchell Prize from ISBA and a Google research award. She became a Fellow of American Statistical Association in 2014. Professor Zheng is the recipient of the 2017 Columbia’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching. From 2018-2020, she was the chair-elect, chair and past-chair for ASA’s section on Statistical Learning and Data Science.