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What Can Human Sketches Do for Object Detection?

Pinaki Nath Chowdhury · Ayan Kumar Bhunia · Aneeshan Sain · Subhadeep Koley · Tao Xiang · Yi-Zhe Song

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 260
award Award Candidate
[ ] [ Project Page ]


Sketches are highly expressive, inherently capturing subjective and fine-grained visual cues. The exploration of such innate properties of human sketches has, however, been limited to that of image retrieval. In this paper, for the first time, we cultivate the expressiveness of sketches but for the fundamental vision task of object detection. The end result is a sketch-enabled object detection framework that detects based on what you sketch -- that “zebra” (e.g., one that is eating the grass) in a herd of zebras (instance-aware detection), and only the part (e.g., “head” of a “zebra”) that you desire (part-aware detection). We further dictate that our model works without (i) knowing which category to expect at testing (zero-shot) and (ii) not requiring additional bounding boxes (as per fully supervised) and class labels (as per weakly supervised). Instead of devising a model from the ground up, we show an intuitive synergy between foundation models (e.g., CLIP) and existing sketch models build for sketch-based image retrieval (SBIR), which can already elegantly solve the task -- CLIP to provide model generalisation, and SBIR to bridge the (sketch->photo) gap. In particular, we first perform independent prompting on both sketch and photo branches of an SBIR model to build highly generalisable sketch and photo encoders on the back of the generalisation ability of CLIP. We then devise a training paradigm to adapt the learned encoders for object detection, such that the region embeddings of detected boxes are aligned with the sketch and photo embeddings from SBIR. Evaluating our framework on standard object detection datasets like PASCAL-VOC and MS-COCO outperforms both supervised (SOD) and weakly-supervised object detectors (WSOD) on zero-shot setups. Project Page:

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