Michael J. Black received his B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia (1985), his M.S. from Stanford (1989), and his Ph.D. in computer science from Yale University (1992). After research at NASA Ames and post-doctoral research at the University of Toronto, he joined the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1993 where he later managed the Image Understanding Area and founded the Digital Video Analysis group. From 2000 to 2010 he was on the faculty of Brown University in the Department of Computer Science (Assoc. Prof. 2000-2004, Prof. 2004-2010). He is a founding director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, where he leads the Perceiving Systems department. He is an honorary professor at the University of Tübingen, a visiting professor at ETH Zürich, and an adjunct professor (research) at Brown University.
Black is a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is a recipient of the 2010 Koenderink Prize for Fundamental Contributions in Computer Vision and the 2013 Helmholtz Prize for work that has stood the test of time. His work has won several paper awards including the IEEE Computer Society Outstanding Paper Award (CVPR'91). His work received Honorable Mention for the Marr Prize in 1999 and 2005. His early work on optical flow has been widely used in Hollywood films including for the Academy-Award-winning effects in “What Dreams May Come” and “The Matrix Reloaded.” He has contributed to several influential datasets including the Middlebury Flow dataset, HumanEva, and the Sintel dataset. He is a co-founder, science advisor, and member of the board of directors of Body Labs Inc., which is commercializing his team’s research on 3D human body shape.
Prof. Black's research interests in machine vision include optical flow estimation, 3D shape models, human shape and motion analysis, robust statistical methods, and probabilistic models of the visual world. In computational neuroscience his work focuses on probabilistic models of the neural code and applications of neural decoding in neural prosthetics.
Michael Black received his B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia (1985), his M.S. from Stanford (1989), and his Ph.D. from Yale University (1992). After post-doctoral research at the University of Toronto, he worked at Xerox PARC as a member of research staff and an area manager. From 2000 to 2010 he was on the faculty of Brown University in the Department of Computer Science (Assoc. Prof. 2000-2004, Prof. 2004-2010). He is one of the founding directors at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, where he leads the Perceiving Systems department. He is an Honorarprofessor at the University of Tuebingen, Visiting Professor at ETH Zürich, and Adjunct Professor (Research) at Brown University. His work has won several awards including the IEEE Computer Society Outstanding Paper Award (1991), Honorable Mention for the Marr Prize (1999 and 2005), the 2010 Koenderink Prize for Fundamental Contributions in Computer Vision, and the 2013 Helmholtz Prize for work that has stood the test of time. He is a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is also a co-founder, science advisor, and board member of Body Labs Inc.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Foreign member, Class for Engineering Sciences, since June 2015.
for the paper: Black, M. J., and Anandan, P., "A framework for the robust estimation of optical flow,'' IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, ICCV, pages 231-236, Berlin, Germany. May 1993.
2010Koenderink Prize for Fundamental Contributions in Computer Vision,
with Sidenbladh, H. and Fleet, D. J. for the paper "Stochastic tracking of 3D human figures using 2D image motion,'' European Conference on Computer Vision, 2000.
"Dataset Award" at the Eurographics Symposium on Geometry Processing 2016, with F. Bogo, J. Romero, and M. Loper, for the paper "FAUST: Dataset and evaluation for 3D mesh registration," CVPR 2014.
Best Paper Award, International Conference on 3D Vision (3DV), 2015, with A. O. Ulusoy and A. Geiger, for the paper "Towards Probabilistic Volumetric Reconstruction using Ray Potentials."
Best Paper Award, INI-Graphics Net, 2008, First Prize Winner of Category Research,
with S. Roth for the paper "Steerable random fields."
Best Paper Award, Fourth International Conference on Articulated Motion and Deformable Objects (AMDO-e 2006), with L. Sigal for the paper "Predicting 3D people from 2D pictures.''
Marr Prize, Honorable Mention, Int. Conf. on Computer Vision, ICCV-2005, Beijing, China, Oct. 2005 with S. Roth for the paper "On the spatial statistics of optical flow.''
Marr Prize, Honorable Mention, Int. Conf. on Computer Vision, ICCV-99, Corfu, Greece, Sept. 1999 with D. J. Fleet for the paper "Probabilistic detection and tracking of motion discontinuities.''
IEEE Computer Society, Outstanding Paper Award, Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, Maui, Hawaii, June 1991 with P. Anandan for the paper "Robust dynamic motion estimation over time.''
Commendation and Chief's Award, Henrico County Division of Police,
County of Henrico, Virginia, April 19, 2007.
University of Maryland, Invention of the Year, 1995, "Tracking and Recognizing Facial Expressions,'' with Y. Yacoob.
University of Toronto, Computer Science Students' Union Teaching Award for 1992-1993.
My research addressed the problem of estimating and explaining motion in image sequences. I developed methods detecting and tracking 2D and 3D human motion including the introduction of particle filtering for 3D human tracking and belief propagation for 3D human pose estimation. I worked on probabilistic models of images include the high-order Field of Experts model. I worked on 3D human shape estimation from images and video and developed applications of this technology. I also developed mathematical models for decoding neural signals. This included the first uses of particle filtering and Kalman filtering for decoding motor cortical neural activity and the first point-and-click cortical neural brain-machine-interface for people with paralysis.
Research included modeling image changes (motion, illumination, specularity, occlusion, etc.) in video as a mixture of causes. I developed methods of motion explanation; that is, the extraction of mid-level or high-level concepts from motion.This included the modeling and recognition of motion "features" (occlusion boundaries, moving bars, etc.), human facial expressions and gestures, and motion "texture" (plants, fire, water, etc.). I applied these methods to problems in video indexing, motion for video annotation, teleconferencing, and gestural user interfaces. Other research included robust learning of image-based models, regularization with transparency, anisotropic diffusion, and the recovery of multiple shapes from transparent textures.
Research included the application of mixture models to optical flow, detection and tracking of surface discontinuities using motion information, and robust surface recovery in dynamic environments.
Yale University, (9/89-8/92) New Haven, CT
Research Assistant, Department of Computer Science.
Research in the recovery of optical flow, incremental estimation, temporal continuity, applications of robust statistics to optical flow, the relationship between robust statistics and line processes, the early detection of motion discontinuities, and the role of representation in computer vision.
Developed motion estimation algorithms in the context of an autonomous Mars landing and nap-of-the-earth helicopter flight and studied the psychophysical implications of a temporal continuity assumption.
Research on spatial reasoning for robotic vehicle route planning and terrain analysis. Vision research including perceptual grouping, object-based translational motion processing, the integration of vision and control for an autonomous vehicle, object modeling using generalized cylinders, and the development of an object-oriented vision environment.
GTE Government Systems, (6/85-12/86) Mountain View, CA
Engineer, Artificial Intelligence Group.
Developed expert systems for multi-source data fusion and fault location.
Summer undergraduate researcher at UBC; park ranger's assistant; volunteer firefighter, busboy; and probably my worst job: cleaning dog kennels.
I am interested in motion. What does motion tell us about the structure of the world and how can we compute this from video? How do humans and animals move? How does the brain control complex movement? My work combines computer vision, graphics and neuroscience to develop new models and algorithms to capture and analyze the motion of the world.
My Computer Vision research addresses:
the estimation of scene structure and physical properties from video;
modeling the neural control of reaching and grasping;
novel neural decoding algorithms;
neural prostheses and cortical brain-machine interfaces;
markless animal motion capture.
What is maybe unique about my work is the combination of the these themes. For example I study human motion from the inside (decoding neural activity in paralyzed humans) and the outside (with novel motion capture techniques).
Frank Wood, Associate Professor, Department of Engineering, Oxford
Thesis: Nonparametric Bayesian modeling of neural data. Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Hulya Yalcin, Assistant Professor, Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Thesis: Implicit models of moving and static surfaces, Division of Engineering, Brown University, May 2004
Wei Wu, Associate Professor, Dept. of Statistics, Florida State
Thesis: Statistical models of neural coding in motor cortex, Division of Applied Math, Brown University. Co-supervised with David Mumford. May 2004.
Fernando De la Torre, Research Associate Professor, CMU and Facebook,
Thesis: Robust subspace learning for computer vision, La Salle School of Engineering. Universitat Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Spain. Jan. 2002
My old Brown site has several image sequences used in my older publications. These include some classic sequences such as Yosemite, the Pepsi can, the SRI tree sequence, and the Flower Garden sequence.
A Quantitative Analysis of Current Practices in Optical Flow Estimation and the Principles behind Them
Sun, D., Roth, S., and Black, M.J. International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 106(2):115-137, 2014. (pdf)
Secrets of optical flow estimation and their principles
Sun, D., Roth, S., and Black, M. J., IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recog., CVPR, June 2010. (pdf)
This method implements many of the currently best known techniques for accurate optical flow and was once ranked #1 on the Middlebury evaluation (June 2010).
The software is made available for research pupropses. Please read the copyright statement and contact me for commerical licensing.
2. Matlab implmentation of the Black and Anandan dense optical flow method
The Matlab flow code is easier to use and more accurate than the original C code. The objective function being optimized is the same but the Matlab version uses more modern optimization methods:
The method in 1 above is more accurate and also implements Black and Anandan plus much more.
3. Original Black and Anandan method implemented in C
The optical flow software here has been used by a number of graphics companies to make special effects for movies. This software is provided for research purposes only; any sale or use for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited.
Contact me for the password to download the software, stating that it is for research purposes.
Please contact me if you wish to use this code for commercial purpose.
If you are a commercial enterprise and would like assistance in using optical flow in your application, please contact me at my consulting address firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is EXPERIMENTAL software. It is provided to illustrate some ideas in the robust estimation of optical flow. Use at your own risk. No warranty is implied by this distribution.
The robust estimation of multiple motions: Parametric and piecewise-smooth flow fields,
Black, M. J. and Anandan, P., Computer Vision and Image Understanding, CVIU, 63(1), pp. 75-104, Jan. 1996. (pdf),(pdf from publisher)
Robust Principal Component Analysis (PCA)
Software is from the ICCV'2001 paper with Fernando De la Torre.
The code below provides a simple Matlab implementation of the Bayesian 3D person tracking system described in ECCV'00 and ICCV'01. It is too slow to be used to track the entire body but can be used to track various limbs and provides a basis for people who want to understand the methods better and extend them.
Stochastic tracking of 3D human figures using 2D image motion,
Sidenbladh, H., Black, M. J., and Fleet, D.J., European Conference on Computer Vision, D. Vernon (Ed.), Springer Verlag, LNCS 1843, Dublin, Ireland, pp. 702-718 June 2000. (postscript)(pdf), (abstract)
Software. (Note: if you uncompress and untar this on a PC using Winzip, the path names may be lost which will cause Matlab to fail when you load the .mat files. Instead uncompress/untar using gunzip and tar.)
(J. Neural Engineering Highlights of 2011 Collection. JNE top 10 cited papers of 2010-2011.)
Simeral, J., Kim, S., Black, M. J., Donoghue, J., Hochberg, L.
J. of Neural Engineering, 8(2):025027, 2011 (article)
The ongoing pilot clinical trial of the BrainGate neural interface system aims in part to assess the feasibility of using neural activity obtained from a small-scale, chronically implanted, intracortical microelectrode array to provide control signals for a neural prosthesis system. Critical questions include how long implanted microelectrodes will record useful neural signals, how reliably those signals can be acquired and decoded, and how effectively they can be used to control various assistive technologies such as computers and robotic assistive devices, or to enable functional electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles. Here we examined these questions by assessing neural cursor control and BrainGate system characteristics on five consecutive days 1000 days after implant of a 4 × 4 mm array of 100 microelectrodes in the motor cortex of a human with longstanding tetraplegia subsequent to a brainstem stroke. On each of five prospectively-selected days we performed time-amplitude sorting of neuronal spiking activity, trained a population-based Kalman velocity decoding filter combined with a linear discriminant click state classifier, and then assessed closed-loop point-and-click cursor control. The participant performed both an eight-target center-out task and a random target Fitts metric task which was adapted from a human-computer interaction ISO standard used to quantify performance of computer input devices. The neural interface system was further characterized by daily measurement of electrode impedances, unit waveforms and local field potentials. Across the five days, spiking signals were obtained from 41 of 96 electrodes and were successfully decoded to provide neural cursor point-and-click control with a mean task performance of 91.3% ± 0.1% (mean ± s.d.) correct target acquisition. Results across five consecutive days demonstrate that a neural interface system based on an intracortical
microelectrode array can provide repeatable, accurate point-and-click control of a computer interface to an individual with tetraplegia 1000 days after implantation of this sensor.
Baker, S., Scharstein, D., Lewis, J., Roth, S., Black, M. J., Szeliski, R.
International Journal of Computer Vision, 92(1):1-31, March 2011 (article)
The quantitative evaluation of optical flow algorithms by Barron et al. (1994) led to significant advances in performance. The challenges for optical flow algorithms today go beyond the datasets and evaluation methods proposed in that paper. Instead, they center on problems associated with complex natural scenes, including nonrigid motion, real sensor noise, and motion discontinuities. We propose a new set of benchmarks and evaluation methods for the next generation of optical flow algorithms. To that end, we contribute four types of data to test different aspects of optical flow algorithms: (1) sequences with nonrigid motion where the ground-truth flow is determined by tracking hidden fluorescent texture, (2) realistic synthetic sequences, (3) high frame-rate video used to study interpolation error, and (4) modified stereo sequences of static scenes. In addition to the average angular error used by Barron et al., we compute the absolute flow endpoint error, measures for frame interpolation error, improved statistics, and results at motion discontinuities and in textureless regions. In October 2007, we published the performance of several well-known methods on a preliminary version of our data to establish the current state of the art. We also made the data freely available on the web at http://vision.middlebury.edu/flow/ . Subsequently a number of researchers have uploaded their results to our website and published papers using the data. A significant improvement in performance has already been achieved. In this paper we analyze the results obtained to date and draw a large number of conclusions from them.
Kim, S., Simeral, J., Hochberg, L., Donoghue, J., Friehs, G., Black, M. J.
IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 19(2):193-203, April 2011 (article)
We present a point-and-click intracortical neural interface system (NIS) that enables humans with tetraplegia to volitionally move a 2D computer cursor in any desired direction on a computer screen, hold it still and click on the area of interest. This direct brain-computer interface extracts both discrete (click) and continuous (cursor velocity) signals from a single small population of neurons in human motor cortex. A key component of this system is a multi-state probabilistic decoding algorithm that simultaneously decodes neural spiking activity and outputs either a click signal or the velocity of the cursor. The algorithm combines a linear classifier, which determines whether the user is intending to click or move the cursor, with a Kalman filter that translates the neural population activity into cursor velocity. We present a paradigm for training the multi-state decoding algorithm using neural activity observed during imagined actions. Two human participants with tetraplegia (paralysis of the four limbs) performed a closed-loop radial target acquisition task using the point-and-click NIS over multiple sessions. We quantified point-and-click performance using various human-computer interaction measurements for pointing devices. We found that participants were able to control the cursor motion accurately and click on specified targets with a small error rate (< 3% in one participant). This study suggests that signals from a small ensemble of motor cortical neurons (~40) can be used for natural point-and-click 2D cursor control of a personal computer.
International Journal of Computer Vision, 98(1):15-48, Springer Netherlands, May 2011 (article)
We formulate the problem of 3D human pose estimation and tracking as one of inference in a graphical model. Unlike traditional kinematic tree representations, our model of the body is a collection of loosely-connected body-parts. In particular, we model the body using an undirected graphical model in which nodes correspond to parts and edges to kinematic, penetration, and temporal constraints imposed by the joints and the world. These constraints are encoded using pair-wise statistical distributions, that are learned from motion-capture training data. Human pose and motion estimation is formulated as inference in this graphical model and is solved using Particle Message Passing (PaMPas). PaMPas is a form of non-parametric belief propagation that uses a variation of particle filtering that can be applied over a general graphical model with loops. The loose-limbed model and decentralized graph structure allow us to incorporate information from "bottom-up" visual cues, such as limb and head detectors, into the inference process. These detectors enable automatic initialization and aid recovery from transient tracking failures. We illustrate the method by automatically tracking people in multi-view imagery using a set of calibrated cameras and present quantitative evaluation using the HumanEva dataset.
In Int. Conf. on Computer Vision (ICCV), pages: 1951-1958, IEEE, Barcelona, November 2011 (inproceedings)
The 3D shape of the human body is useful for applications in fitness, games and apparel. Accurate body scanners, however, are expensive, limiting the availability of 3D body models. We present a method for human shape reconstruction from noisy monocular image and range data using a single inexpensive commodity sensor. The approach combines low-resolution image silhouettes with coarse range data to estimate a parametric model of the body. Accurate 3D shape estimates are obtained by combining multiple monocular views of a person moving in front of the sensor. To cope with varying body pose, we use a SCAPE body model which factors 3D body shape and pose variations. This enables the estimation of a single consistent shape while allowing pose to vary. Additionally, we describe a novel method to minimize the distance between the projected 3D body contour and the image silhouette that uses analytic derivatives of the objective function. We propose a simple method to estimate standard body measurements from the recovered SCAPE model and show that the accuracy of our method is competitive with commercial body scanning systems costing orders of magnitude more.
In 33rd Annual Symposium of the German Association for Pattern Recognition (DAGM), 6835, pages: 256-265, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, (Editors: Mester, Rudolf and Felsberg, Michael), Springer, 2011 (inproceedings)
Correspondence between non-rigid deformable 3D objects provides a foundation for object matching and retrieval, recognition, and 3D alignment. Establishing 3D correspondence is challenging when there are non-rigid deformations or articulations between instances of a class. We present a method for automatically finding such correspondences that deals with significant variations in pose, shape and resolution between pairs of objects.We represent objects as triangular meshes and consider normalized geodesic distances as representing their intrinsic characteristics. Geodesic distances are invariant to pose variations and nearly invariant to shape variations when properly normalized. The proposed method registers two objects by optimizing a joint probabilistic model over a subset of vertex pairs between the objects. The model enforces preservation of geodesic distances between corresponding vertex pairs and inference is performed using loopy belief propagation in a hierarchical scheme. Additionally our method prefers solutions in which local shape information is consistent at matching vertices. We quantitatively evaluate our method and show that is is more accurate than a state of the art method.
In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 23 (NIPS), pages: 2226-2234, MIT Press, 2010 (inproceedings)
Layered models are a powerful way of describing natural scenes containing smooth surfaces that may overlap and occlude each other. For image motion estimation, such models have a long history but have not achieved the wide use or accuracy of non-layered methods. We present a new probabilistic model of optical flow in layers that addresses many of the shortcomings of previous approaches. In particular, we define a probabilistic graphical model that explicitly captures: 1) occlusions and disocclusions; 2) depth ordering of the layers; 3) temporal consistency of the layer segmentation. Additionally the optical flow in each layer is modeled by a combination of a parametric model and a smooth deviation based on an MRF with a robust spatial prior; the resulting model allows roughness in
layers. Finally, a key contribution is the formulation of the layers using an image dependent hidden field prior based on recent models for static scene segmentation. The method achieves state-of-the-art results on the Middlebury benchmark and produces meaningful scene segmentations as well as detected occlusion regions.
International Journal of Computer Vision, 87(1):4-27, Springer Netherlands, March 2010 (article)
While research on articulated human motion and pose estimation has progressed rapidly in the last few years, there has been no systematic quantitative evaluation of competing methods to establish the current state of the art. We present data obtained using a hardware system that is able to capture synchronized video and ground-truth 3D motion. The resulting HumanEva datasets contain multiple subjects performing a set of predefined actions with a number of repetitions. On the order of 40,000 frames of synchronized motion capture and multi-view video (resulting in over one quarter million image frames in total) were collected at 60 Hz with an additional 37,000 time instants of pure motion capture data. A standard set of error measures is defined for evaluating both 2D and 3D pose estimation and tracking algorithms. We also describe a baseline algorithm for 3D articulated tracking that uses a relatively standard Bayesian framework with optimization in the form of Sequential Importance Resampling and Annealed Particle Filtering. In the context of this baseline algorithm we explore a variety of likelihood functions, prior models of human motion and the effects of algorithm parameters. Our experiments suggest that image observation models and motion priors play important roles in performance, and that in a multi-view laboratory environment, where initialization is available, Bayesian filtering tends to perform well. The datasets and the software are made available to the research community. This infrastructure will support the development of new articulated motion and pose estimation algorithms, will provide a baseline for the evaluation and comparison of new methods, and will help establish the current state of the art in human pose estimation and tracking.
In European Conf. on Computer Vision, (ECCV), pages: 285-298, Springer-Verlag, September 2010 (inproceedings)
Detection, tracking, segmentation and pose estimation of people in monocular images are widely studied. Two-dimensional models of the human body are extensively used, however, they are typically fairly crude, representing the body either as a rough outline or in terms of articulated geometric primitives. We describe a new 2D model of the human body contour that combines an underlying naked body with a low-dimensional clothing model. The naked body is represented as a Contour Person that can take on a wide variety of poses and body shapes. Clothing is represented as a deformation from the underlying body contour. This deformation is learned from training examples using principal component analysis to produce eigen clothing. We find that the statistics of clothing deformations are skewed and we model the a priori probability of these deformations using a Beta distribution. The resulting generative model captures realistic human forms in monocular images and is used to infer 2D body shape and pose under clothing. We also use the coefficients of the eigen clothing to recognize different categories of clothing on dressed people. The method is evaluated quantitatively on synthetic and real images and achieves better accuracy than previous methods for estimating body shape under clothing.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems