Reading Between The Lines: Object Localization
Using Implicit Cues from Image Tags

Sung Ju Hwang and Kristen Grauman
The University of Texas at Austin


Current uses of tagged images typically exploit only the most explicit information: the link between the nouns named and the objects present somewhere in the image. We propose to leverage "unspoken" cues that rest within an ordered list of image tags so as to improve object localization. We define three novel implicit features from an image's tags---the relative prominence of each object as signified by its order of mention, the scale constraints implied by unnamed objects, and the loose spatial links hinted by the proximity of names on the list. By learning a conditional density over the localization parameters (position and scale) given these cues, we show how to improve both accuracy and efficiency when detecting the tagged objects. We validate our approach with 25 object categories from the PASCAL VOC and LabelMe datasets, and demonstrate its effectiveness relative to both traditional sliding windows as well as a visual context baseline.

1) Idea

The list of tags on an image may give useful information beyond just which objects are present. The tag lists on these images indicate that each contains a mug. However, they also suggest likely differences between the mug occurences even before we see the pixels. For example, the relative order of the words many indicate prominence in location and scale (mug is named first on the left tag list, and is central in that image; mug is named later on the right tag list, and is less central in that image), while the absence of other words may hint at the total scene composition and scale (no significantly larger objects are named in the left image, and the mug is relatively large; larger furniture is named on the right, and the mug is relatively small).

2) Approach

2.1) Features


A traditional bag-of-words representation, extracted from a single image's list of tags.
where denotes the number of times that tag i occurs in that image's associated list of keywords, for a vocabulary of N total possible words.


, where denotes the percentile of the rank for tag i in the current image, relative to all previous ranks observed in the training data for that word (note that i indexes the vocabulary, not the tag list).


, where denotes the signed rank difference between tag words i and j for the given image. The entry is 0 when the pair is not prsent.

2.2) Modeling the Localization Distributions

We need the conditional probability of the location and scale given tag features; that is we wish to model P(X|T), where X = (s, x, y) (scale, x position, y position), and T = W, R, or P. To model this conditional PDF, We use a mixture of Gaussians, since we expect most categories to exhibit multiple modes of location and scale combinations. We compute the parameters of the mixture models using a Mixture Density Network (MDN), which allows us to directly model this conditional PDF, training on a collection of tagged images with bounding box ground truth for the target object.

Mixture density network

2.3) Modulating or Priming the Detector

Once we have the function P(X|T), we can either combine its predictions with an object detector that computes P(X|A) based on appearance cues A, or else use it to rank sub-windows and run the appearance based detector on only the most probable locations ("priming"). The former has potential to improve accuracy, while the latter will improve speed.

Modulating the detector

We use the following logistic regression classifier to balance the appearance and tag-based predictions.

Priming the detector

Instead of scanning the whole image, our method prioritizes the search window according to P(X|T), and stops searching with the appearance based detector once a confident detection is found. The below figures show the real examples of location our method would search first.

The top 30 most likely places for a car in several tagged images, as computed by our Method.

3) Results

3.1) LabelMe

LabelMe results. Left: Percentage of windows searched as a function of detection rate, for all five categories. Right: Localization accuracy when the HOG detector is modulated with the proposed features.

Person Sky
Car Car
Screen Desk
Keyboard Bookshelf
Mug Mug
Example detections on LabelMe on five different target objects. Each image shows the best detection found

3.2) PASCAL VOC 2007

PASCAL VOC results. Left: Percentage of windows searched as a function of detection rate, for all 20 categories. Right: Precision-recall curve drawn by pooling scored bounding boxes from all categories

Example detections on the PASCAL VOC. Red dotted boxes denote most confident detections according to the raw detector (LSVM); green solid boxes denote most confident detections when modulated by our method (LSVM+tags).


LabelMe dataset [labelme.tar.gz]
PASCAL 2007 dataset [pascal.tar.gz]


Reading Between The Lines: Object Localization Using Implicit Cues from Image Tags [pdf]
Sung Ju Hwang and Kristen Grauman
In Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), San Francisco, CA, June 2010