On the Importance of Visual Context for Data Augmentation in Scene Understanding



Performing data augmentation for learning deep neural networks is known to be important for training visual recognition systems. By artificially increasing the number of training examples, it helps reducing overfitting and improves generalization. While simple image transformations such as changing color intensity or adding random noise can already improve predictive performance in most vision tasks, larger gains can be obtained by leveraging task-specific prior knowledge. In this work, we consider object detection and semantic segmentation and augment the training images by blending objects in existing scenes, using instance segmentation annotations. We observe that randomly pasting objects on images hurts the performance, unless the object is placed in the right context. To resolve this issue, we propose an explicit context model by using a convolutional neural network, which predicts whether an image region is suitable for placing a given object or not. In our experiments, we show that by using copy-paste data augmentation with context guidance we are able to improve detection and segmentation on the PASCAL VOC12 and COCO datasets, with significant gains when few labeled examples are available. We also show that the method is not limited to datasets that come with expensive pixel-wise instance annotations and can be used when only bounding box annotations are available, by employing weakly-supervised learning for instance masks approximation.

Augmentation pipeline

We select an image for augmentation and 1) generate 200 candidate boxes that cover the image. Then, 2) for each box we find a neighborhood that contains the box entirely, crop this neighborhood and mask all pixels falling inside the bounding box; this ``neighborhood'' with masked pixels is then fed to the context neural network module and 3) object instances are matched to boxes that have high confidence scores for the presence of an object category. 4) We select at most two instances that are rescaled and blended into the selected bounding boxes. The resulting image is then used for training the object detector.

Project Papers

Extention of the conference paper (preprint)

ECCV 2018 Paper


              title={Modeling Visual Context is Key to Augmenting Object Detection Datasets},
              author={Dvornik, Nikita and Mairal, Julien and Schmid, Cordelia},
              booktitle={{IEEE European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV)}},


Code for the conference paper is available on GitHub.


This work was supported by a grant from ANR (MACARON project under grant number ANR-14-CE23-0003-01), by the ERC grant number 714381 (SOLARIS project), the ERC advanced grant ALLEGRO and gifts from Amazon and Intel.

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