In Praise of Artifice Reloaded: Caution with subjective image quality databases

TitleIn Praise of Artifice Reloaded: Caution with subjective image quality databases
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsMartinez-García M, Bertalmío M, Malo J
Journal*Submitted* to Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology

Subjective image quality databases are a major source of raw data on how the visual system works in naturalistic environments. These databases describe the sensitivity of many observers to a wide range of distortions (of different nature and with different suprathreshold intensities) seen on top of a variety of natural images. They seem like a dream for the vision scientist to check the models in realistic scenarios.

However, while these natural databases are great benchmarks for models developed in some other way (e.g. by using the well-controlled artificial stimuli of traditional psychophysics), they should be carefully used when trying to fit vision models. Given the high dimensionality of the image space, it is very likely that some basic phenomenon (e.g. sensitivity to distortions in certain environments) are under-represented in the database. Therefore, a model fitted on these large-scale natural databases will not reproduce these under-represented basic phenomena that could otherwise be easily illustrated with well selected articial stimuli.

In this work we study a specific example of the above statement. A wavelet+divisive normalization layer of a sensible cascade of linear+nonlinear layers fitted to maximize the correlation with subjective opinion of observers on a large image quality database fails to reproduce basic cross-masking. Here we outline a solution for this problem using artificial stimuli. Then, we show that the resulting model is also a competitive solution for the large-scale database. In line with (Rust and Movshon, 2005), our report (misrepresentation of basic visual phenomena in subjectively-rated natural image databases) is an additional argument in praise of artifice.