ICVSS 2010: Have you cited Lagrange?

Yeah, I have. :) Before the beginning of the summer school we received a homework assignment from Prof. Stefano Soatto. We had to read the three papers and discover the roots of ideas exploited by the authors. Such connections are not obligatory expressed by references. As a result, one had to get a tree (or, may be, lattice) with a root in the given paper. Since the task was not accurately formulated, most of us chose just one paper and made a tree for it. Later it turned out that all three problems (optical flow estimation, multi-view stereo and volume registration) have the same roots because they lead to the similar optimization problems and we were supposed to establish that connection.

I (like most of the students) had a limited time to prepare the work. All the modern research in optical flow is based on two seminal papers by MIT's Horn & Shunk and CMU's Lukas & Kanade, both from 1981. During the last 30 years a lot of work has been done. It was summarized by Sun et al. (2010), who discovered that only small fraction of the ideas give significant improvement and combined them into quite simple method that found its place on the top of Middlebury table. Since I had no time to read a lot of optical flow papers, I discovered a lot of math stuff (like PDEs and variation calculus) used in Horn-Shunk paper. Just as a joke I added references to the works of Newton, Lagrange and d'Alambert to my report. Surprisingly, joke was not really understood.

There were only 21 submissions, one of them was 120 pages long (the author did not show up at the seminar =), the tree depth varied from 1 to 20. I was not the only one who cited "pre-historic" papers, someone traced ideas back to Aristotle through Occam. The questions about the horizon arose: it is really ridiculous to find the roots of computer vision at Aristotle works. Since the prizes were promised for rare references (the prize policy was left unclear too), some argument took place. Soatto did not give any additional explanations on the formulation of the task but let the audience decide which references are legitimate in controversial cases. Eventually, I was among the 5 people whose references were considered controversial, so I needed to defend them. Well, I suppose I looked pretty pathetic talking about Newton's finite differences which were used for approximation of derivatives in the Horn-Shunk's paper. Surprisingly, almost a half of the audience voted for me. =) Also, my reference to the Thomas Reid's essay was tentatively approved.

Finally, there were no bonuses for the papers that could not be found with Google, and the whole $1000 prize went to the Cambridge group. To conclude, Soatto (among other) said that nobody had read any German or Russian papers. After the seminar I told him how I tried to dig into the library (it is described here in Russian), he answered something like "funny, it is hard to find them even for you!"

One evening during the dinner we talked about Russia, and Vijay told a lot of interesting stuff (like the guy who developed ChatRoulette is now working in Silicon Valley). He remembered Stephen Boyd who is known for his jokes about Russia. I said that I watched the records of his amazing course on Convex Optimization. It turned out that Vijay (who is now a PhD student in Stanford) took that course, and he promised to tell Boyd that he has a fan in Russia. (Or, maybe in Soviet Russia fans have Boyd =).

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