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Theses Doctoral

Painting Pictures with Words - From Theory to System

Coyne, Robert Eric

A picture paints a thousand words, or so we are told. But how many words does it take to paint a picture? And how can words create pictures in the first place? In this thesis we examine a new theory of linguistic meaning -- where the meaning of words and sentences is determined by the scenes they evoke. We describe how descriptive text is parsed and semantically interpreted and how the semantic interpretation is then depicted as a rendered 3D scene. In doing so, we describe WordsEye, our text-to-scene system, and touch upon many fascinating issues of lexical semantics, knowledge representation, and what we call "graphical semantics." We introduce the notion of vignettes as a way to bridge between function and form, between the semantics of language and the grounded semantics of 3D scenes. And we describe how VigNet, our lexical semantic and graphical knowledge base, mediates the whole process.
In the second part of this thesis, we describe four different ways WordsEye has been tested. We first discuss an evaluation of the system in an educational environment where WordsEye was shown to significantly improve literacy skills for sixth grade students versus a control group. We then compare WordsEye with Google Image Search on "realistic" and "imaginative" sentences in order to evaluate its performance on a sentence-by-sentence level and test its potential as a way to augment existing image search tools. Thirdly, we describe what we have learned in testing WordsEye as an online 3D authoring system where it has attracted 20,000 real-world users who have performed almost one million scene depictions. Finally, we describe tests of WordsEye as an elicitation tool for field linguists studying endangered languages. We then sum up by presenting a roadmap for enhancing the capabilities of the system and identifying key
opportunities and issues to be addressed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Thesis Advisors
Hirschberg, Julia Bell
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 31, 2017