CoralSeg: Learning coral segmentation from sparse annotations

Iñigo Alonso, Matan Yuval, Gal Eyal, Tali Treibitz, Ana C. Murillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Robotic advances and developments in sensors and acquisition systems facilitate the collection of survey data in remote and challenging scenarios. Semantic segmentation, which attempts to provide per-pixel semantic labels, is an essential task when processing such data. Recent advances in deep learning approaches have boosted this task's performance. Unfortunately, these methods need large amounts of labeled data, which is usually a challenge in many domains. In many environmental monitoring instances, such as the coral reef example studied here, data labeling demands expert knowledge and is costly. Therefore, many data sets often present scarce and sparse image annotations or remain untouched in image libraries. This study proposes and validates an effective approach for learning semantic segmentation models from sparsely labeled data. Based on augmenting sparse annotations with the proposed adaptive superpixel segmentation propagation, we obtain similar results as if training with dense annotations, significantly reducing the labeling effort. We perform an in-depth analysis of our labeling augmentation method as well as of different neural network architectures and loss functions for semantic segmentation. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach on publicly available data sets of different real domains, with the emphasis on underwater scenarios—specifically, coral reef semantic segmentation. We release new labeled data as well as an encoder trained on half a million coral reef images, which is shown to facilitate the generalization to new coral scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1456-1477
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Field Robotics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • coral reefs
  • learning
  • machine learning
  • perception
  • underwater robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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