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Theses Doctoral

Learning Structured Representations for Understanding Visual and Multimedia Data

Zareian, Alireza

Recent advances in Deep Learning (DL) have achieved impressive performance in a variety of Computer Vision (CV) tasks, leading to an exciting wave of academic and industrial efforts to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) facilities for every aspect of human life. Nevertheless, there are inherent limitations in the understanding ability of DL models, which limit the potential of AI in real-world applications, especially in the face of complex, multimedia input. Despite tremendous progress in solving basic CV tasks, such as object detection and action recognition, state-of-the-art CV models can merely extract a partial summary of visual content, which lacks a comprehensive understanding of what happens in the scene. This is partly due to the oversimplified definition of CV tasks, which often ignore the compositional nature of semantics and scene structure. It is even less studied how to understand the content of multiple modalities, which requires processing visual and textual information in a holistic and coordinated manner, and extracting interconnected structures despite the semantic gap between the two modalities.

In this thesis, we argue that a key to improve the understanding capacity of DL models in visual and multimedia domains is to use structured, graph-based representations, to extract and convey semantic information more comprehensively. To this end, we explore a variety of ideas to define more realistic DL tasks in both visual and multimedia domains, and propose novel methods to solve those tasks by addressing several fundamental challenges, such as weak supervision, discovery and incorporation of commonsense knowledge, and scaling up vocabulary. More specifically, inspired by the rich literature of semantic graphs in Natural Language Processing (NLP), we explore innovative scene understanding tasks and methods that describe images using semantic graphs, which reflect the scene structure and interactions between objects. In the first part of this thesis, we present progress towards such graph-based scene understanding solutions, which are more accurate, need less supervision, and have more human-like common sense compared to the state of the art.

In the second part of this thesis, we extend our results on graph-based scene understanding to the multimedia domain, by incorporating the recent advances in NLP and CV, and developing a new task and method from the ground up, specialized for joint information extraction in the multimedia domain. We address the inherent semantic gap between visual content and text by creating high-level graph-based representations of images, and developing a multitask learning framework to establish a common, structured semantic space for representing both modalities. In the third part of this thesis, we explore another extension of our scene understanding methodology, to open-vocabulary settings, in order to make scene understanding methods more scalable and versatile. We develop visually grounded language models that use naturally supervised data to learn the meaning of all words, and transfer that knowledge to CV tasks such as object detection with little supervision. Collectively, the proposed solutions and empirical results set a new state of the art for the semantic comprehension of visual and multimedia content in a structured way, in terms of accuracy, efficiency, scalability, and robustness.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Thesis Advisors
Chang, Shih-Fu
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 22, 2021