June 13, 2019

Computer vision and global challenges: New research and applications

By: Facebook Artificial Intelligence

Rapid recent progress in the field of computer vision (CV) has had a significant real-world impact, opening possibilities in domains such as transportation, entertainment, and safety. While these are valuable and meaningful technological applications, CV has the potential to benefit people around the globe in many other ways, as well, in fields such as agriculture, disease prevention, infrastructure mapping, and more. These applications can lead the CV community to discover intellectually interesting and challenging new tasks and data sets, and by broadening the problem statements and their geographic diversity, help to further expose biases in the tasks and data sets currently targeted by CV researchers.

With issues like these in mind, Facebook is co-organizing the first Workshop on Computer Vision for Global Challenges in conjunction with the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) conference. The full-day event will be held on June 16 in Long Beach, California, and will include talks from CV leaders in industry and academia, poster and spotlight presentations, a panel discussion, and a mentoring/networking dinner.

The workshop aims to diversify the largest annual gathering of leaders in CV by bringing together top minds from around the world to discuss open global problems and present new techniques and solutions. “The visual world is diverse, and technology must account for this diversity,” says Yannis Kalantidis, Facebook AI Research Scientist co-organizing the workshop with Laura Sevilla-Lara from the University of Edinburgh. “Our goal is to widen the scope of current computer vision to include novel problem statements, data sets, and applications for global impact,” Kalantidis continues.

In addition to the workshop, our Computer Vision for Global Challenges (CV4GC) initiative at Facebook also includes travel grants for researchers to attend CVPR and a CV4GC request for research proposals.

Artificial intelligence brings the promise of improved access to health care, accelerated economic development, reduced inequalities, and other gains. As part of Facebook’s mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together, we believe there’s a role for us as leaders in AI to play in helping to meaningfully advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically focusing on SDG17 and a partnership-first approach. For example, Facebook is already partnering with Oxford Internet Institute and Professor Luciano Floridi to extract good practices and lessons learned around how to apply AI to the SDGs.

One of the driving forces for CV4GC was to build partnerships between the industry-based CV research community and international organizations, philanthropists, and local NGOs working to support small-scale farmers, address public health emergencies, and support economic development. It aims to help leverage CV technology in support of efforts to address global poverty and inequality, especially those captured in the SDGs.

Bringing together CV experts from around the world

Researchers and AI experts from different parts of the world don’t always have the opportunity to be a part of these discussions at conferences like CVPR, so Facebook awarded travel grants to those who submitted successful CV4GC research challenges. Out of the 105 applications submitted, 17 challenges were selected from applicants around the world, including multiple countries in Africa and South Asia.

The research challenges submitted spanned a wide range of topics. A researcher at the University of Geneva’s Institute of Global Health proposed an app to help victims of poisonous snakebite. A researcher at Indiana University Bloomington proposed a tool to detect dyslexia through handwriting analysis. A researcher at Pakistan’s Lahore University of Management Sciences outlined a plan to use CV to help identify locations where businesses are exploiting child labor. A CV expert at the University of Dodoma in Tanzania proposed a way to make malaria diagnoses faster and more accurate.

Facebook’s Global Impact Partnership team is also hosting a group of experienced development and humanitarian experts (from organizations such as CGIAR, World Bank, BFA Global, UNICEF, Gates Foundation, and Slashroots), who are joining to prototype potential new CV applications in a development context.

In total, Facebook funded the travel of more than 30 promising CV scientists and experts from around the world. At CVPR, travel grant awardees will also receive support and guidance from a large volunteer team of CV ambassadors, as well as mentorship and opportunities for collaboration.

The importance of inclusive AI

In addition to fostering collaboration between attendees from different communities, the CV4GC workshop helps demonstrate the importance of an inclusive approach to AI research. In her keynote address at F8 earlier this year, Lade Obamehinti detailed Facebook’s commitment to building inclusive AI and discussed why AI must be developed by a diverse group of people in order to benefit everyone.

Facebook is committed to open research and external collaborations, so the CV4GC workshop is an exciting opportunity to explore new potential uses for CV and learn and collaborate with a unique group of subject-matter experts.

Facebook AI hopes the initiative’s funding will aid in diversifying the composition of CVPR attendees and the subject matter the conference covers, and that the efforts of CV4GC can help bring the world closer to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.