Residual Learning for Image Point Descriptors

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Local image feature descriptors have had a tremendous impact on the development and application of computer vision methods. It is therefore unsurprising that significant efforts are being made for learning-based image point descriptors. However, the advantage of learned methods over handcrafted methods in real applications is subtle and more nuanced than expected. Moreover, handcrafted descriptors such as SIFT and SURF still perform better point localization in Structure-from-Motion (SfM) compared to many learned counterparts. In this project, we propose a very simple and effective approach to learning local image descriptors by using a hand-crafted detector and descriptor. Specifically, we choose to learn only the descriptors, supported by handcrafted descriptors while discarding the point localization head. We optimize the final descriptor by leveraging the knowledge already present in the handcrafted descriptor. Such an approach of optimization allows us to discard learning knowledge already present in non-differentiable functions such as the hand-crafted descriptors and only learn the residual knowledge in the main network branch. This offers 50X convergence speed compared to the standard baseline architecture of SuperPoint while at inference the combined descriptor provides superior performance over the learned and hand-crafted descriptors. This is done with minor increase in the computations over the baseline learned descriptor. Our approach has potential applications in ensemble learning and learning with non-differentiable functions. We perform experiments in matching, camera localization and Structure-from-Motion in order to showcase the advantages of our approach.