Reliability in Deep Machine Learning and Uncertainty for Object Detection

Why it matters

In order to fully integrate deep learning into robotics, it is important that deep learning systems can reliably estimate the uncertainty in their predictions. This would allow robots to treat a deep neural network like any other sensor, and use the established Bayesian techniques to fuse the network’s predictions with prior knowledge or other sensor measurements, or to accumulate information over time.

Deep learning systems, e.g. for classification or detection, typically return scores from their softmax layers that are proportional to the system’s confidence, but are not calibrated probabilities, and therefore not useable in a Bayesian sensor fusion framework.


Current approaches towards uncertainty estimation for deep learning are calibration techniques, or Bayesian deep learning with approximations such as Monte Carlo Dropout or ensemble methods.  Our work focusses on Bayesian Deep Learning approaches for the specific use case of object detection on a robot in open-set conditions.

Selected Publications

Probabilistic Object Detection: Definition and Evaluation

David Hall, Feras Dayoub, John Skinner, Peter Corke, Gustavo Carneiro, Anelia Angelova, Niko Sünderhauf. In IEEE Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV), 2020.

We introduce Probabilistic Object Detection, the task of detecting objects in images and accurately quantifying the spatial and semantic uncertainties of the detections. Given the lack of methods capable of assessing such probabilistic object detections, we present the new Probability-based Detection Quality measure (PDQ). Unlike AP-based measures, PDQ has no arbitrary thresholds and rewards spatial and label quality, and foreground/background separation quality while explicitly penalising false positive and false negative detections.

A Probabilistic Challenge for Object Detection

Niko Sünderhauf, Feras Dayoub, David Hall, John Skinner, Haoyang Zhang, Gustavo Carneiro, Peter Corke. Nature Machine Intelligence, 2019.

To safely operate in the real world, robots need to evaluate how confident they are about what they see. A new competition challenges computer vision algorithms to not just detect and localize objects, but also report how certain they are. To this end, we introduce Probabilistic Object Detection, the task of detecting objects in images and accurately quantifying the spatial and semantic uncertainties of the detections.

Evaluating Merging Strategies for Sampling-based Uncertainty Techniques in Object Detection

Dimity Miller, Feras Dayoub, Michael Milford, Niko Sünderhauf. In Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2019.

There has been a recent emergence of sampling-based techniques for estimating epistemic uncertainty in deep neural networks. While these methods can be applied to classification or semantic segmentation tasks by simply averaging samples, this is not the case for object detection, where detection sample bounding boxes must be accurately associated and merged. A weak merging strategy can significantly degrade the performance of the detector and yield an unreliable uncertainty measure. This paper provides the first in-depth investigation of the effect of different association and merging strategies. We compare different combinations of three spatial and two semantic affinity measures with four clustering methods for MC Dropout with a Single Shot Multi-Box Detector. Our results show that the correct choice of affinity-clustering combinations can greatly improve the effectiveness of the classification and spatial uncertainty estimation and the resulting object detection performance. We base our evaluation on a new mix of datasets that emulate near open-set conditions (semantically similar unknown classes), distant open-set conditions (semantically dissimilar unknown classes) and the common closed-set conditions (only known classes).

Did You Miss the Sign? A False Negative Alarm System for Traffic Sign Detectors

Quazi Marufur Rahman, Niko Sünderhauf, Feras Dayoub. In Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2019.

In this paper, we propose an approach to identify traffic signs that have been mistakenly discarded by the object detector. The proposed method raises an alarm when it discovers a failure by the object detector to detect a traffic sign. This approach can be useful to evaluate the performance of the detector during the deployment phase. We trained a single shot multi-box object detector to detect traffic signs and used its internal features to train a separate false negative detector (FND). During deployment, FND decides whether the traffic sign detector has missed a sign or not.

Dropout Sampling for Robust Object Detection in Open-Set Conditions

Dimity Miller, Lachlan Nicholson, Feras Dayoub, Niko Sünderhauf. In Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2018.

Dropout Variational Inference, or Dropout Sampling, has been recently proposed as an approximation technique for Bayesian Deep Learning and evaluated for image classification and regression tasks. This paper investigates the utility of Dropout Sampling for object detection for the first time. We demonstrate how label uncertainty can be extracted from a state-of-the-art object detection system via Dropout Sampling. We show that this uncertainty can be utilized to increase object detection performance under the open-set conditions that are typically encountered in robotic vision. We evaluate this approach on a large synthetic dataset with 30,000 images, and a real-world dataset captured by a mobile robot in a versatile campus environment.

Chief Investigators