Unsupervised Foreground Extraction via Deep Region Competition

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Peiyu Yu, Sirui Xie, Xiaojian Ma, Yixin Zhu, Ying Nian Wu, Song-Chun Zhu


We present Deep Region Competition (DRC), an algorithm designed to extract foreground objects from images in a fully unsupervised manner. Foreground extraction can be viewed as a special case of generic image segmentation that focuses on identifying and disentangling objects from the background. In this work, we rethink the foreground extraction by reconciling energy-based prior with generative image modeling in the form of Mixture of Experts (MoE), where we further introduce the learned pixel re-assignment as the essential inductive bias to capture the regularities of background regions. With this modeling, the foreground-background partition can be naturally found through Expectation-Maximization (EM). We show that the proposed method effectively exploits the interaction between the mixture components during the partitioning process, which closely connects to region competition, a seminal approach for generic image segmentation. Experiments demonstrate that DRC exhibits more competitive performances on complex real-world data and challenging multi-object scenes compared with prior methods. Moreover, we show empirically that DRC can potentially generalize to novel foreground objects even from categories unseen during training.