Toddler-Inspired Visual Object Learning

Bambach et al., 2018

Source: Bambach et al., 2018


  • Real-world learning systems are limited in the quality and quantity of training datasets they can collect
  • Use head-mounted cameras and gaze trackers to collect egocentric images from human child in naturalistic learning contexts
  • Child data produces better object models than egocentric adult data
  • Child data exhibits unique combination of quality and diversity
  • Links: [ website ] [ pdf ]


  • Current machine learning approaches rely on collecting large amounts of data, with generalization ability benefitting from the size
  • Human children are very efficient learners, able to recognize roughly 300 object categories by age 2, and generalize to novel instances of newly learned label
  • Successful learning in toddlers lies in the qulity of visual data they collect in everyday activities, more coherent and correlated
  • Use CNNs to quantify and compare the information content of various datasets


  • Toddlers in toy play context (24 toys), learn about objects and names
  • Egocentric video and eye tracker for toddler and adult, as well as 3rd person view
  • Final dataset of about 200 minutes of video, 30fps, 480 x 640, 70 degree horizontal FOV
  • Separate “standard” image dataset of the 24 toy objects with 128 viewpoints per object, 3072 total images - used for test set
  • Manually detect object looks using gaze data, average duration was ~1-2 seconds, ~200k frames each for child and parent
  • Used pretrained YOLO to obtain object bounding boxes in each frame
  • Simulate foveated vision by prgressively blurring away from center of gaze
  • Make datasets with different FOV, between 30-70 degrees in 10 degree increments
  • Used pretrained VGG with finetuning for the different datasets, weighting loss based on object frequency
  • Test on the “standard” clean object dataset


  • Differences in histogram of object sizes
    • Adult data skewed towards smaller objects (<10% of FOV)
    • Child data has more larger objects (>20% FOV), up to ~50% FOV
    • ImageNet has much more large objects, up to 100% image size
  • Use GIST features to compare low-level visual similarity, toddler has bigger tail of dissimilar instances compared to adults
    • ImageNet is generally more variable since contains instances of different objects
  • VGG trained on child data performs better than adult data across various FOV and with or without blurring
  • Separated child data into two datasets where objects were smaller or larger than median, based on YOLO bounding boxes
  • Larger object dataset resulted in higher performance
  • Create datasets of similar, diverse, and orignal based on GIST features of bounding box cropped objects
    • Similar contained 25% of the instances with minimum total pairwise distance
    • Diverse contained 25% with maximum distance
    • Original contains random subset of original datset
  • Original performed best, and diverse better than similar
  • Blurring, from simulated foveated vision, generally hurts performance
    • Only helps in adult data with large FOV (>50 degrees)


  • Data (images) gathered by toddlers during play results in better performance than adult data
  • Child data differs from adults in object size and instance diversity, which contribute to performance gain
    • More larger objects
    • More diverse instances
  • Toddler dataset contains more information than they have access to
    • Requires (manual) labeling of objects in each frame
  • Not clear that better performance of “big objects” isn’t just due to the test set generally having large objects too
    • Test performance with original distribution of object size (both big and small) not shown
    • Would having both large and small objects help for a more “realistic” test set
  • Would be nice to see results hold with training from scratch
    • Data needed for fine-tuning might be different
  • Other task besides object recognition would be interesting
  • How well would a “standard” dataset compare to toddler and adult data
    • Can these principles be used to design better “standard” datasets
Elias Z. Wang
Elias Z. Wang
AI Researcher | PhD Candidate