In this thesis, we study the problem of recognizing video sequences of fingerspelled letters in American Sign Language (ASL). Fingerspelling comprises a significant but relatively understudied part of ASL, and recognizing it is challenging for a number of reasons: It involves quick, small motions that are often highly coarticulated; it exhibits significant variation between signers; and there has been a dearth of continuous fingerspelling data collected. In this work, we propose several types of recognition approaches, and explore the signer variation problem. Our best-performing models are segmental (semi-Markov) conditional random fields using deep neural network-based features. In the signer-dependent setting, our recognizers achieve up to about 8% letter error rates. The signer-independent setting is much more challenging, but with neural network adaptation we achieve up to 17% letter error rates. Click to Read Paper
We study the problem of recognition of fingerspelled letter sequences in American Sign Language in a signer-independent setting. Fingerspelled sequences are both challenging and important to recognize, as they are used for many content words such as proper nouns and technical terms. Previous work has shown that it is possible to achieve almost 90% accuracies on fingerspelling recognition in a signer-dependent setting. However, the more realistic signer-independent setting presents challenges due to significant variations among signers, coupled with the dearth of available training data. We investigate this problem with approaches inspired by automatic speech recognition. We start with the best-performing approaches from prior work, based on tandem models and segmental conditional random fields (SCRFs), with features based on deep neural network (DNN) classifiers of letters and phonological features. Using DNN adaptation, we find that it is possible to bridge a large part of the gap between signer-dependent and signer-independent performance. Using only about 115 transcribed words for adaptation from the target signer, we obtain letter accuracies of up to 82.7% with frame-level adaptation labels and 69.7% with only word labels. Click to Read Paper
Image translation between two domains is a class of problems aiming to learn mapping from an input image in the source domain to an output image in the target domain. It has been applied to numerous domains, such as data augmentation, domain adaptation, and unsupervised training. When paired training data is not accessible, image translation becomes an ill-posed problem. We constrain the problem with the assumption that the translated image needs to be perceptually similar to the original image and also appears to be drawn from the new domain, and propose a simple yet effective image translation model consisting of a single generator trained with a self-regularization term and an adversarial term. We further notice that existing image translation techniques are agnostic to the subjects of interest and often introduce unwanted changes or artifacts to the input. Thus we propose to add an attention module to predict an attention map to guide the image translation process. The module learns to attend to key parts of the image while keeping everything else unaltered, essentially avoiding undesired artifacts or changes. The predicted attention map also opens door to applications such as unsupervised segmentation and saliency detection. Extensive experiments and evaluations show that our model while being simpler, achieves significantly better performance than existing image translation methods. Click to Read Paper
We study the problem of recognizing video sequences of fingerspelled letters in American Sign Language (ASL). Fingerspelling comprises a significant but relatively understudied part of ASL. Recognizing fingerspelling is challenging for a number of reasons: It involves quick, small motions that are often highly coarticulated; it exhibits significant variation between signers; and there has been a dearth of continuous fingerspelling data collected. In this work we collect and annotate a new data set of continuous fingerspelling videos, compare several types of recognizers, and explore the problem of signer variation. Our best-performing models are segmental (semi-Markov) conditional random fields using deep neural network-based features. In the signer-dependent setting, our recognizers achieve up to about 92% letter accuracy. The multi-signer setting is much more challenging, but with neural network adaptation we achieve up to 83% letter accuracies in this setting. Click to Read Paper