Value-directed human behavior analysis from video using partially observable Markov decision processes

Jesse Hoey, James J. Little

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper presents a method for learning decision theoretic models of human behaviors from video data. Our system learns relationships between the movements of a person, the context in which they are acting, and a utility function. This learning makes explicit that the meaning of a behavior to an observer is contained in its relationship to actions and outcomes. An agent wishing to capitalize on these relationships must learn to distinguish the behaviors according to how they help the agent to maximize utility. The model we use is a partially observable Markov decision process, or POMDP. The video observations are integrated into the POMDP using a dynamic Bayesian network that creates spatial and temporal abstractions amenable to decision making at the high level. The parameters of the model are learned from training data using an a posteriori constrained optimization technique based on the expectation-maximization algorithm. The system automatically discovers classes of behaviors and determines which are important for choosing actions that optimize over the utility of possible outcomes. This type of learning obviates the need for labeled data from expert knowledge about which behaviors are significant and removes bias about what behaviors may be useful to recognize in a particular situation. We show results in three interactions: a single player imitation game, a gestural robotic control problem, and a card game played by two people.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1118-1132
    Number of pages15
    JournalIEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


    • Face and gesture recognition
    • Video analysis
    • Motion
    • Statistical models
    • Clustering algorithms
    • Machine learning
    • Parameter learning
    • Control theory
    • Dynamic programming


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