Michael J. Black received his B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia (1985), his M.S. from Stanford (1989), and his Ph.D. in computer science from Yale University (1992). After research at NASA Ames and post-doctoral research at the University of Toronto, he joined the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1993 where he later managed the Image Understanding Area and founded the Digital Video Analysis group. From 2000 to 2010 he was on the faculty of Brown University in the Department of Computer Science (Assoc. Prof. 2000-2004, Prof. 2004-2010). He is a founding director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, where he leads the Perceiving Systems department. He is also a Distinguished Amazon Scholar, an Honorarprofessor at the University of Tuebingen, and Adjunct Professor at Brown University.
Black is a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is a recipient of the 2010 Koenderink Prize for Fundamental Contributions in Computer Vision and the 2013 Helmholtz Prize for work that has stood the test of time. His work has won several paper awards including the IEEE Computer Society Outstanding Paper Award (CVPR'91). His work received Honorable Mention for the Marr Prize in 1999 and 2005. His early work on optical flow has been widely used in Hollywood films including for the Academy-Award-winning effects in “What Dreams May Come” and “The Matrix Reloaded.” He has contributed to several influential datasets including the Middlebury Flow dataset, HumanEva, and the Sintel dataset. Black has coauthored over 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications.
He is also active in commercializing scientific results, is an inventor on 10 issued patents, and has advised multiple startups. He uniquely combines computer vision, graphics, and machine learning to solve problems in the clothing industry. In 2013, he co-founded Body Labs Inc., which used computer vision, machine learning, and graphics technology licensed from his lab to commercialize "the body as a digital platform." Body Labs was acquired by Amazon in 2017.
Black's research interests in machine vision include optical flow estimation, 3D shape models, human shape and motion analysis, robust statistical methods, and probabilistic models of the visual world. In computational neuroscience his work focuses on probabilistic models of the neural code and applications of neural decoding in neural prosthetics.
Michael Black received his B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia (1985), his M.S. from Stanford (1989), and his Ph.D. from Yale University (1992). After post-doctoral research at the University of Toronto, he worked at Xerox PARC as a member of research staff and area manager. From 2000 to 2010 he was on the faculty of Brown University in the Department of Computer Science (Assoc. Prof. 2000-2004, Prof. 2004-2010). He is one of the founding directors at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, where he leads the Perceiving Systems department. He is also a Distinguished Amazon Scholar, an Honorarprofessor at the University of Tuebingen, and Adjunct Professor at Brown University. His work has won several awards including the IEEE Computer Society Outstanding Paper Award (1991), Honorable Mention for the Marr Prize (1999 and 2005), the 2010 Koenderink Prize for Fundamental Contributions in Computer Vision, and the 2013 Helmholtz Prize for work that has stood the test of time. He is a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 2013 he co-founded Body Labs Inc., which was acquired by Amazon in 2017.
Even shorter version
Michael Black received his B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia (1985), his M.S. from Stanford (1989), and his Ph.D. from Yale University (1992). He has held positions at the University of Toronto, Xerox PARC, and Brown Unviversity. He is one of the founding directors at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, where he leads the Perceiving Systems department. He is a Distinguished Amazon Scholar, an Honorarprofessor at the University of Tuebingen, and Adjunct Professor at Brown University. His work has won several awards including the IEEE Computer Society Outstanding Paper Award (1991), Honorable Mention for the Marr Prize (1999 and 2005), the 2010 Koenderink Prize, and the 2013 Helmholtz Prize. He is a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 2013 he co-founded Body Labs Inc., which was acquired by Amazon in 2017.
Alumni Research Award
University of British Columbia, Department of Computer Science, 2018.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Foreign member, Class for Engineering Sciences, since June 2015.
for the paper: Black, M. J., and Anandan, P., "A framework for the robust estimation of optical flow,'' IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, ICCV, pages 231-236, Berlin, Germany. May 1993.
2010Koenderink Prize for Fundamental Contributions in Computer Vision,
with Sidenbladh, H. and Fleet, D. J. for the paper "Stochastic tracking of 3D human figures using 2D image motion,'' European Conference on Computer Vision, 2000.
Best Paper Award, Eurographics 2017, for the paper "Sparse Inertial Poser: Automatic 3D Human Pose Estimation from Sparse IMUs", by von Marcard, T., Rosenhahn, B., Black, M. J., Pons-Moll, G.
"Dataset Award" at the Eurographics Symposium on Geometry Processing 2016, with F. Bogo, J. Romero, and M. Loper, for the paper "FAUST: Dataset and evaluation for 3D mesh registration," CVPR 2014.
Best Paper Award, International Conference on 3D Vision (3DV), 2015, with A. O. Ulusoy and A. Geiger, for the paper "Towards Probabilistic Volumetric Reconstruction using Ray Potentials."
Best Paper Award, INI-Graphics Net, 2008, First Prize Winner of Category Research,
with S. Roth for the paper "Steerable random fields."
Best Paper Award, Fourth International Conference on Articulated Motion and Deformable Objects (AMDO-e 2006), with L. Sigal for the paper "Predicting 3D people from 2D pictures.''
Marr Prize, Honorable Mention, Int. Conf. on Computer Vision, ICCV-2005, Beijing, China, Oct. 2005 with S. Roth for the paper "On the spatial statistics of optical flow.''
Marr Prize, Honorable Mention, Int. Conf. on Computer Vision, ICCV-99, Corfu, Greece, Sept. 1999 with D. J. Fleet for the paper "Probabilistic detection and tracking of motion discontinuities.''
IEEE Computer Society, Outstanding Paper Award, Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, Maui, Hawaii, June 1991 with P. Anandan for the paper "Robust dynamic motion estimation over time.''
Commendation and Chief's Award, Henrico County Division of Police,
County of Henrico, Virginia, April 19, 2007.
University of Maryland, Invention of the Year, 1995, "Tracking and Recognizing Facial Expressions,'' with Y. Yacoob.
University of Toronto, Computer Science Students' Union Teaching Award for 1992-1993.
My research addressed the problem of estimating and explaining motion in image sequences. I developed methods detecting and tracking 2D and 3D human motion including the introduction of particle filtering for 3D human tracking and belief propagation for 3D human pose estimation. I worked on probabilistic models of images include the high-order Field of Experts model. I worked on 3D human shape estimation from images and video and developed applications of this technology. I also developed mathematical models for decoding neural signals. This included the first uses of particle filtering and Kalman filtering for decoding motor cortical neural activity and the first point-and-click cortical neural brain-machine-interface for people with paralysis.
Research included modeling image changes (motion, illumination, specularity, occlusion, etc.) in video as a mixture of causes. I developed methods of motion explanation; that is, the extraction of mid-level or high-level concepts from motion.This included the modeling and recognition of motion "features" (occlusion boundaries, moving bars, etc.), human facial expressions and gestures, and motion "texture" (plants, fire, water, etc.). I applied these methods to problems in video indexing, motion for video annotation, teleconferencing, and gestural user interfaces. Other research included robust learning of image-based models, regularization with transparency, anisotropic diffusion, and the recovery of multiple shapes from transparent textures.
Research included the application of mixture models to optical flow, detection and tracking of surface discontinuities using motion information, and robust surface recovery in dynamic environments.
Yale University, (9/89-8/92) New Haven, CT
Research Assistant, Department of Computer Science.
Research in the recovery of optical flow, incremental estimation, temporal continuity, applications of robust statistics to optical flow, the relationship between robust statistics and line processes, the early detection of motion discontinuities, and the role of representation in computer vision.
Developed motion estimation algorithms in the context of an autonomous Mars landing and nap-of-the-earth helicopter flight and studied the psychophysical implications of a temporal continuity assumption.
Research on spatial reasoning for robotic vehicle route planning and terrain analysis. Vision research including perceptual grouping, object-based translational motion processing, the integration of vision and control for an autonomous vehicle, object modeling using generalized cylinders, and the development of an object-oriented vision environment.
GTE Government Systems, (6/85-12/86) Mountain View, CA
Engineer, Artificial Intelligence Group.
Developed expert systems for multi-source data fusion and fault location.
Summer undergraduate researcher at UBC; park ranger's assistant; volunteer firefighter, busboy; and probably my worst job: cleaning dog kennels.
I am interested in motion. What does motion tell us about the structure of the world and how can we compute this from video? How do humans and animals move? How does the brain control complex movement? My work combines computer vision, graphics and neuroscience to develop new models and algorithms to capture and analyze the motion of the world.
My Computer Vision research addresses:
the estimation of scene structure and physical properties from video;
modeling the neural control of reaching and grasping;
novel neural decoding algorithms;
neural prostheses and cortical brain-machine interfaces;
markless animal motion capture.
I also work on industrial applications in Fashion Science:
Body scanning and measurement;
cloth capture and modeling;
What is maybe unique about my work is the combination of the these themes. For example I study human motion from the inside (decoding neural activity in paralyzed humans) and the outside (with novel motion capture techniques).
Current PhD students:
Yao Feng, MPI-ETH Center for Learning Systems, Co-supervised with Marc Pollefeys
Marilyn Keller, MPI for Intelligent Systems, Co-supervised with Sergi Pujades
Lea Müller, Int. Max Planck Research School, Intelligent Systems, Tübingen
Frank Wood, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Univ. of British Columbia (UBC)
Thesis: Nonparametric Bayesian modeling of neural data. Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Hulya Yalcin, Assistant Professor, Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Thesis: Implicit models of moving and static surfaces, Division of Engineering, Brown University, May 2004
Wei Wu, Associate Professor, Dept. of Statistics, Florida State
Thesis: Statistical models of neural coding in motor cortex, Division of Applied Math, Brown University. Co-supervised with David Mumford. May 2004.
Fernando De la Torre, Research Associate Professor, CMU and Facebook,
Thesis: Robust subspace learning for computer vision, La Salle School of Engineering. Universitat Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Spain. Jan. 2002
My old Brown site has several image sequences used in my older publications. These include some classic sequences such as Yosemite, the Pepsi can, the SRI tree sequence, and the Flower Garden sequence.
A Quantitative Analysis of Current Practices in Optical Flow Estimation and the Principles behind Them
Sun, D., Roth, S., and Black, M.J. International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 106(2):115-137, 2014. (pdf)
Secrets of optical flow estimation and their principles
Sun, D., Roth, S., and Black, M. J., IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recog., CVPR, June 2010. (pdf)
This method implements many of the currently best known techniques for accurate optical flow and was once ranked #1 on the Middlebury evaluation (June 2010).
The software is made available for research pupropses. Please read the copyright statement and contact me for commerical licensing.
2. Matlab implmentation of the Black and Anandan dense optical flow method
The Matlab flow code is easier to use and more accurate than the original C code. The objective function being optimized is the same but the Matlab version uses more modern optimization methods:
The method in 1 above is more accurate and also implements Black and Anandan plus much more.
3. Original Black and Anandan method implemented in C
The optical flow software here has been used by a number of graphics companies to make special effects for movies. This software is provided for research purposes only; any sale or use for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited.
Contact me for the password to download the software, stating that it is for research purposes.
Please contact me if you wish to use this code for commercial purpose.
If you are a commercial enterprise and would like assistance in using optical flow in your application, please contact me at my consulting address email@example.com.
This is EXPERIMENTAL software. It is provided to illustrate some ideas in the robust estimation of optical flow. Use at your own risk. No warranty is implied by this distribution.
The robust estimation of multiple motions: Parametric and piecewise-smooth flow fields,
Black, M. J. and Anandan, P., Computer Vision and Image Understanding, CVIU, 63(1), pp. 75-104, Jan. 1996. (pdf),(pdf from publisher)
Robust Principal Component Analysis (PCA)
Software is from the ICCV'2001 paper with Fernando De la Torre.
The code below provides a simple Matlab implementation of the Bayesian 3D person tracking system described in ECCV'00 and ICCV'01. It is too slow to be used to track the entire body but can be used to track various limbs and provides a basis for people who want to understand the methods better and extend them.
Stochastic tracking of 3D human figures using 2D image motion,
Sidenbladh, H., Black, M. J., and Fleet, D.J., European Conference on Computer Vision, D. Vernon (Ed.), Springer Verlag, LNCS 1843, Dublin, Ireland, pp. 702-718 June 2000. (postscript)(pdf), (abstract)
Software. (Note: if you uncompress and untar this on a PC using Winzip, the path names may be lost which will cause Matlab to fail when you load the .mat files. Instead uncompress/untar using gunzip and tar.)
In Fifth International Conf. on Computer Vision, ICCV’95, pages: 347-381, Boston, MA, June 1995 (inproceedings)
This paper explores the use of local parametrized models of image motion for recovering and recognizing the non-rigid and articulated motion of human faces. Parametric flow models (for example affine) are popular for estimating motion in rigid scenes. We observe that within local regions in space and time, such models not only accurately model non-rigid facial motions but also provide a concise description of the motion in terms of a small number of parameters. These parameters are intuitively related to the motion of facial features during facial expressions and we show how expressions such as anger, happiness, surprise, fear, disgust and sadness can be recognized from the local parametric motions in the presence of significant head motion. The motion tracking and expression recognition approach performs with high accuracy in extensive laboratory experiments involving 40 subjects as well as in television and movie sequences.
CVGIP: Image Understanding, 60(1):65-73, July 1994 (article)
Recently, the assumed goal of computer vision, reconstructing a representation of the scene, has been critcized as unproductive and impractical. Critics have suggested that the reconstructive approach should be supplanted by a new purposive approach that emphasizes functionality and task driven perception at the cost of general vision. In response to these arguments, we claim that the recovery paradigm central to the reconstructive approach is viable, and, moreover, provides a promising framework for understanding and modeling general purpose vision in humans and machines. An examination of the goals of vision from an evolutionary perspective and a case study involving the recovery of optic flow support this hypothesis. In particular, while we acknowledge that there are instances where the purposive approach may be appropriate, these are insufficient for implementing the wide range of visual tasks exhibited by humans (the kind of flexible vision system presumed to be an end-goal of artificial intelligence). Furthermore, there are instances, such as recent work on the estimation of optic flow, where the recovery paradigm may yield useful and robust results. Thus, contrary to certain claims, the purposive approach does not obviate the need for recovery and reconstruction of flexible representations of the world.
In Fourth International Conf. on Computer Vision, ICCV-93, pages: 231-236, Berlin, Germany, May 1993 (inproceedings)
Most approaches for estimating optical flow assume that, within a finite image region, only a single motion is present. This single motion assumption is violated in common situations involving transparency, depth discontinuities, independently moving objects, shadows, and specular reflections. To robustly estimate optical flow, the single motion assumption must be relaxed. This work describes a framework based on robust estimation that addresses violations of the brightness constancy and spatial smoothness assumptions caused by multiple motions. We show how the robust estimation framework can be applied to standard formulations of the optical flow problem thus reducing their sensitivity to violations of their underlying assumptions. The approach has been applied to three standard techniques for recovering optical flow: area-based regression, correlation, and regularization with motion discontinuities. This work focuses on the recovery of multiple parametric motion models within a region as well as the recovery of piecewise-smooth flow fields and provides examples with natural and synthetic image sequences.
In Proc. Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, CVPR-91,, pages: 296-302, Maui, Hawaii, June 1991 (inproceedings)
This paper presents a novel approach to incrementally estimating visual motion over a sequence of images. We start by formulating constraints on image motion to account for the possibility of multiple motions. This is achieved by exploiting the notions of weak continuity and robust statistics in the formulation of the minimization problem. The resulting objective function is non-convex. Traditional stochastic relaxation techniques for minimizing such functions prove inappropriate for the task. We present a highly parallel incremental stochastic minimization algorithm which has a number of advantages over previous approaches. The incremental nature of the scheme makes it truly dynamic and permits the detection of occlusion and disocclusion boundaries.
In Proc. Int. Conf. on Computer Vision, ICCV-90, pages: 33-37, Osaka, Japan, December 1990 (inproceedings)
We propose a model for the recovery of visual motion fields from image sequences. Our model exploits three constraints on the motion of a patch in the environment: i) Data Conservation: the intensity structure corresponding to an environmental surface patch changes gradually over time; ii) Spatial Coherence: since surfaces have spatial extent neighboring points have similar motions; iii) Temporal Coherence: the direction and velocity of motion for a surface patch changes gradually. The formulation of the constraints takes into account the possibility of multiple motions at a particular location. We also present a highly parallel computational model for realizing these constraints in which computation occurs locally, knowledge about the motion increases over time, and occlusion and disocclusion boundaries are estimated. An implementation of the model using a stochastic temporal updating scheme is described. Experiments with both synthetic and real imagery are presented.
In Proc. National Conf. on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI-90, pages: 1060-1066, Boston, MA, 1990 (inproceedings)
Surface discontinuities are detected in a sequence of images by exploiting physical constraints at early stages in the processing of visual motion. To achieve accurate early discontinuity detection we exploit five physical constraints on the presence of discontinuities: i) the shape of the sum of squared differences (SSD) error surface in the presence of surface discontinuities; ii) the change in the shape of the SSD surface due to relative surface motion; iii) distribution of optic flow in a neighborhood of a discontinuity; iv) spatial consistency of discontinuities; V) temporal consistency of discontinuities. The constraints are described, and experimental results on sequences of real and synthetic images are presented. The work has applications in the recovery of environmental structure from motion and in the generation of dense optic flow fields.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems