Occlusive Components Analysis

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

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Jörg Lücke, Richard Turner, Maneesh Sahani, Marc Henniges


We study unsupervised learning in a probabilistic generative model for occlusion. The model uses two types of latent variables: one indicates which objects are present in the image, and the other how they are ordered in depth. This depth order then determines how the positions and appearances of the objects present, specified in the model parameters, combine to form the image. We show that the object parameters can be learnt from an unlabelled set of images in which objects occlude one another. Exact maximum-likelihood learning is intractable. However, we show that tractable approximations to Expectation Maximization (EM) can be found if the training images each contain only a small number of objects on average. In numerical experiments it is shown that these approximations recover the correct set of object parameters. Experiments on a novel version of the bars test using colored bars, and experiments on more realistic data, show that the algorithm performs well in extracting the generating causes. Experiments based on the standard bars benchmark test for object learning show that the algorithm performs well in comparison to other recent component extraction approaches. The model and the learning algorithm thus connect research on occlusion with the research field of multiple-cause component extraction methods.