Chained Boosting

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

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Christian Shelton, Wesley Huie, Kin Kan


We describe a method to learn to make sequential stopping decisions, such as those made along a processing pipeline. We envision a scenario in which a series of decisions must be made as to whether to continue to process. Further processing costs time and resources, but may add value. Our goal is to create, based on his- toric data, a series of decision rules (one at each stage in the pipeline) that decide, based on information gathered up to that point, whether to continue processing the part. We demonstrate how our framework encompasses problems from manu- facturing to vision processing. We derive a quadratic (in the number of decisions) bound on testing performance and provide empirical results on object detection.

1 Pipelined Decisions

In many decision problems, all of the data do not arrive at the same time. Often further data collec- tion can be expensive and we would like to make a decision without accruing the added cost.

Consider silicon wafer manufacturing. The wafer is processed in a series of stages. After each stage some tests are performed to judge the quality of the wafer. If the wafer fails (due to flaws), then the processing time, energy, and materials are wasted. So, we would like to detect such a failure as early as possible in the production pipeline.

A similar problem can occur in vision processing. Consider the case of object detection in images. Often low-level pixel operations (such as downsampling an image) can be performed in parallel by dedicated hardware (on a video capture board, for example). However, searching each subimage patch of the whole image to test whether it is the object in question takes time that is proportional to the number of pixels. Therefore, we can imagine a image pipeline in which low resolution versions of the whole image are scanned first. Subimages which are extremely unlikely to contain the desired object are rejected and only those which pass are processed at higher resolution. In this way, we save on many pixel operations and can reduce the cost in time to process an image.

Even if downsampling is not possible through dedicated hardware, for most object detection schemes, the image must be downsampled to form an image pyramid in order to search for the object at different scales. Therefore, we can run the early stages of such a pipelined detector at the low resolution versions of the image and throw out large regions of the high resolution versions. Most of the processing is spent searching for small faces (at the high resolutions), so this method can save a lot of processing.

Such chained decisions also occur if there is a human in the decision process (to ask further clarifying questions in database search, for instance). We propose a framework that can model all of these scenarios and allow such decision rules to be learned from historic data. We give a learning algorithm based on the minimization of the exponential loss and conclude with some experimental results.

1.1 Problem Formulation

Let there be s stages to the processing pipeline. We assume that there is a static distribution from which the parts, objects, or units to be processed are drawn. Let p(x, c) represent this distribution in which x is a vector of the features of this unit and c represents the costs associated with this unit. In particular, let xi (1 ≤ i ≤ s) be the set of measurements (features) available to the decision maker immediately following stage i. Let ci (1 ≤ i ≤ s) be the cost of rejecting (or stopping the processing of) this unit immediately following stage i. Finally, let c s+1 be the cost of allowing the part to pass through all processing stages. Note that ci need not be monotonic in i. To take our wafer manufacturing example, for wafers that are good we might let ci = i for 1 ≤ i ≤ s, indicating that if a wafer is rejected at any stage, one unit of work has been invested for each stage of processing. For the same good wafers, we might let cs+1 = s − 1000, indicating that the value of a completed wafer is 1000 units and therefore the total cost is the processing cost minus the resulting value. For a flawed wafer, the values might be the same, except for cs+1 which we would set to s, indicating that there is no value for a bad wafer. Note that the costs may be either positive or negative. However, only their relative values are im- portant. Once a part has been drawn from the distribution, there is no way of affecting the “base level” for the value of the part. Therefore, we assume for the remainder of this paper that c i ≥ 0 for 1 ≤ i ≤ s + 1 and that ci = 0 for some value of i (between 1 and s + 1). Our goal is to produce a series of decision rules f i(xi) for 1 ≤ i ≤ s. We let fi have a range of {0, 1} and let 0 indicate that processing should continue and 1 indicate that processing should be halted. We let f denote the collection of these s decision rules and augment the collection with an additional rule fs+1 which is identically 1 (for ease of notation). The cost of using these rules to halt processing an example is therefore