A Nonparametric Approach to Bottom-Up Visual Saliency

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 19 (NIPS 2006)

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Wolf Kienzle, Felix A. Wichmann, Matthias Franz, Bernhard Schölkopf


This paper addresses the bottom-up influence of local image information on human eye movements. Most existing computational models use a set of biologically plausible linear filters, e.g., Gabor or Difference-of-Gaussians filters as a front-end, the outputs of which are nonlinearly combined into a real number that indicates visual saliency. Unfortunately, this requires many design parameters such as the number, type, and size of the front-end filters, as well as the choice of nonlinearities, weighting and normalization schemes etc., for which biological plausibility cannot always be justified. As a result, these parameters have to be chosen in a more or less ad hoc way. Here, we propose to learn a visual saliency model directly from human eye movement data. The model is rather simplistic and essentially parameter-free, and therefore contrasts recent developments in the field that usually aim at higher prediction rates at the cost of additional parameters and increasing model complexity. Experimental results show that--despite the lack of any biological prior knowledge--our model performs comparably to existing approaches, and in fact learns image features that resemble findings from several previous studies. In particular, its maximally excitatory stimuli have center-surround structure, similar to receptive fields in the early human visual system.