Recently, significant improvement has been made on semantic object segmentation due to the development of deep convolutional neural networks (DCNNs). Training such a DCNN usually relies on a large number of images with pixel-level segmentation masks, and annotating these images is very costly in terms of both finance and human effort. In this paper, we propose a simple to complex (STC) framework in which only image-level annotations are utilized to learn DCNNs for semantic segmentation. Specifically, we first train an initial segmentation network called Initial-DCNN with the saliency maps of simple images (i.e., those with a single category of major object(s) and clean background). These saliency maps can be automatically obtained by existing bottom-up salient object detection techniques, where no supervision information is needed. Then, a better network called Enhanced-DCNN is learned with supervision from the predicted segmentation masks of simple images based on the Initial-DCNN as well as the image-level annotations. Finally, more pixel-level segmentation masks of complex images (two or more categories of objects with cluttered background), which are inferred by using Enhanced-DCNN and image-level annotations, are utilized as the supervision information to learn the Powerful-DCNN for semantic segmentation. Our method utilizes 40K simple images from Flickr.com and 10K complex images from PASCAL VOC for step-wisely boosting the segmentation network. Extensive experimental results on PASCAL VOC 2012 segmentation benchmark well demonstrate the superiority of the proposed STC framework compared with other state-of-the-arts.
Images of Flickr-Clean can be downloaded from here.