Discrete-Constrained Regression for Local Counting Models
Haipeng Xiong, Angela Yao
"Local counts, or the number of objects in a local area, is a continuous value by nature. Yet recent state-of-the-art methods show that formulating counting as a classification task performs better than regression. Through a series of experiments on carefully controlled synthetic data, we show that this counter-intuitive result is caused by imprecise ground truth local counts. Factors such as biased dot annotations and incorrectly matched Gaussian kernels used to generate ground truth counts introduce deviations from the true local counts. Standard continuous regression is highly sensitive to these errors, explaining the performance gap between classification and regression. To mitigate the sensitivity, we loosen the regression formulation from a continuous scale to a discrete ordering and propose a novel discrete-constrained (DC) regression. Applied to crowd counting, DC-regression is more accurate than both classification and standard regression on three public benchmarks. A similar advantage also holds for the age estimation task, verifying the overall effectiveness of DC-regression. Code is available at https://github.com/xhp-hust-2018-2011/dcreg."