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Image Annotation Best Practices: Using Multilayer Views

We've updated our platform to provide data scientists and annotators with multilayer views for image annotations. Let's dive deep into how this approach can transform our image annotation process and improve model performance.

Image Annotation Best Practices: Using Multilayer Views

We understand that accurate image data annotation is crucial for training our computer vision models. This step properly supplies the data we need for object detection, image segmentation, and scene understanding. The better the data quality of your image annotation dataset, the more effective your machine learning model is.

One way we can improve our image annotation project for better model performance is by being able to see beyond our typical perspectives. We've updated our platform to provide data scientists and annotators with multilayer views for image annotations. Similar to geospatial image annotation tasks, a multilayer approach enhances the quality of our labeled data. Let's dive deep into how this approach can transform our image annotation process and improve model performance.

A brief explainer: the image annotation process

Image annotation is the process of labeling images with metadata to make them understandable for a computer vision model. Collecting and producing high-quality image annotations is a foundational step in building robust computer vision models. Accurate and comprehensive image annotation is essential for object detection, image classification, image segmentation, and scene understanding tasks.

However, image annotation can be challenging due to the complexity and variability inherent in visual data. Here are a few examples:

  • Complex Interactions and Overlapping Objects

    In many images, objects overlap or interact in intricate ways. For example, in autonomous driving, road scenes often contain multiple overlapping objects, such as vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles. Accurate annotation is crucial for understanding these interactions to ensure safe navigation.

  • Varied Object Scales and Orientations

    Objects in images can appear at different scales, angles, and orientations. A single-layer annotation might miss these nuances. For instance, buildings, vehicles, and trees in aerial surveillance may be viewed from various heights and angles, requiring detailed annotations to distinguish between them effectively.

  • Contextual Relationships

    Understanding the relationships between objects in a scene is crucial for tasks like scene parsing and semantic segmentation. In industrial automation, robots need to understand the spatial relationships between different components on a manufacturing line to accurately perform tasks like assembly or quality inspection.

  • Occlusions and Partial Visibility

    Other elements in the image can partially obscure or obscure objects. In retail inventory management, products on shelves may be partially hidden by other items, requiring detailed annotations to maintain accurate stock records.

  • Detailed and Rich Annotations

    Some tasks require highly detailed annotations, such as labeling different parts of an object or capturing fine-grained details in medical images. In healthcare, for example, annotating different regions of interest in MRI scans allows for precise diagnosis and treatment planning, improving patient outcomes.

Benefits of multilayer views in image annotation projects

Object Segmentation

In object detection, an image annotation tool that provides a multilayered view enables annotators to accurately segment and label individual objects within an image, even when overlapping or partially occluded. This is particularly important for tasks such as instance segmentation, where the goal is distinguishing between multiple instances of the same object class. By isolating multiple objects in different layers of a single image, annotators can avoid confusion and ensure each object is correctly labeled.

Scene Understanding

Annotating different layers of an image allows annotators to provide rich contextual information about the specific objects of interest in the scene, including the spatial relationships between objects and the overall environment layout. This information is crucial for tasks such as semantic segmentation and scene parsing, which aim to understand the global structure of a scene. A multilayered approach helps capture these nuances more effectively, leading to a deeper understanding of the scene.

Reduced Annotation Time

Focusing on specific layers of an image can significantly reduce the time required for successful image annotation too. This is especially true for more intricate types of image annotation, where labeling smaller objects can be prohibitively time-consuming. By carefully selecting the most informative frames or layers, annotators can provide high-quality labels more efficiently, reducing the overall time and cost associated with the whole image tagging and annotation project.

Real-World Applications

Annotating images through a multilayered view can more accurately represent real-world scenarios, leading to a wide range of computer vision applications across various industries. For example, in healthcare, annotated images from medical scans with multiple layers can help AI/ML systems detect and analyze different parts of the body. In autonomous vehicles, annotating objects through a multilayered view of the environment can enable the vehicle to perceive and navigate its surroundings accurately. This approach to annotated data is also beneficial in fields like material science and microscopy, where detailed annotations are crucial for analyzing and characterizing materials.

Multilayer vs. Single-Layer View in Image Annotation

Detail and Precision:

  • Multilayer Annotation: Viewing different layers separately allows annotators to focus on specific aspects of the image, such as individual objects, relationships, and context. This targeted approach results in highly detailed and precise labels. For example, annotators can meticulously label overlapping or partially occluded objects by isolating them in different layers.

  • Single-Layer Annotation: Annotators must label all aspects of an image in a single pass, which can lead to oversights and less detailed annotations. Complex images with multiple interacting elements can be challenging to annotate accurately without the ability to isolate individual components.

Contextual Understanding:

  • Multilayer Annotation: Different layers can be used to capture various contextual elements, such as background, spatial relationships, and environmental features. This comprehensive approach enhances the contextual understanding of the scene, leading to more accurate annotations. For instance, annotators can use separate layers to distinguish between the main objects and their surroundings.

  • Single-Layer Annotation: Capturing the full context in a single layer can be difficult, as annotators may struggle to label primary objects and their relationships with other elements simultaneously. This can result in a less nuanced understanding of the scene.

Efficiency and Focus:

  • Multilayer Annotation: Annotators can work more efficiently by focusing on one image aspect at a time. This reduces cognitive load and helps prevent errors. For example, annotators can switch between layers dedicated to specific tasks, such as separately labeling vehicles, pedestrians, and road signs in a street scene.

  • Single-Layer Annotation: Annotators may become overwhelmed by trying to label all elements in one go, leading to a higher likelihood of mistakes and slower progress. The lack of focus can also result in incomplete or inconsistent annotations.

Flexibility and Scalability:

  • Multilayer Annotation: This approach offers greater flexibility, as different layers can be assigned to different annotators based on their expertise. Layers can be added or modified without redoing the entire annotation, making it scalable for complex or evolving projects. For instance, new layers can be introduced to capture additional details as needed.

  • Single-Layer Annotation: Any changes or additions typically require revisiting the entire image, making it less flexible and scalable. This can be particularly problematic for large-scale projects where the annotation requirements may evolve over time.

Quality of Machine Learning Models:

  • Multilayer Annotation: Leads to higher-quality annotations, which in turn improves the performance of machine learning models. Detailed and accurate labels help models learn better and generalize well to new data. For example, models trained with multilayer annotations can better understand complex scenes and interactions.

  • Single-Layer Annotation: The potential for less detailed and precise annotations can negatively impact the quality and performance of machine learning models. Incomplete or inaccurate labels can result in models that struggle to generalize to new or complex data.

Examples of using multilayer views in image annotations:

Multilayer views can involve different aspects of the image itself, such as various spectrums and imaging modalities. This approach is particularly useful in fields where different types of images provide complementary information.

Types of Layers

  1. RGB Spectrums:

    • Red Channel Layer: Annotators can focus on details that are more prominent in the red channel of the image. This might include certain types of vegetation or other materials that reflect red light differently.

    • Green Channel Layer: This layer emphasizes details that are better seen in the green spectrum, which can be crucial for highlighting different features in natural scenes or urban environments.

    • Blue Channel Layer: Features that stand out in the blue spectrum, such as water bodies or certain types of vegetation, can be annotated separately.

  2. Infrared and Thermal Imaging:

    • Infrared Spectrum Layer: Infrared images capture heat emitted by objects, making them useful for detecting living beings or assessing vegetation health in geospatial imagery. Annotators can label these features based on their thermal signatures.

    • Thermal Heat Map Layer: This layer focuses on heat distribution within the image, which is particularly useful in security surveillance for detecting human presence or in industrial inspections for identifying overheated machinery.

  3. X-ray and Other Medical Imaging Modalities:

    • X-ray Layer: X-ray images are used to visualize the internal structure of objects, such as bones in medical imaging or contents in security scans. Annotators can label fractures, foreign objects, or other anomalies.

    • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Layers: Different MRI sequences (T1, T2, FLAIR) highlight various tissue properties. Separate layers for each sequence help annotators identify and label different types of tissues and abnormalities.

    • CT (Computed Tomography) Layers: CT scans provide cross-sectional images of the body. Separate layers can be used to label different organs, tissues, and pathological findings.

  4. Spectral Bands in Remote Sensing:

    • Multispectral Layer: Images captured in multiple spectral bands beyond the visible spectrum (e.g., near-infrared, shortwave infrared) can be annotated separately. This is crucial for applications like vegetation analysis, water quality assessment, and mineral exploration.

    • Hyperspectral Layer: Hyperspectral images capture a wide range of wavelengths, providing detailed information about the material properties of objects. Annotators can label different materials and substances based on their spectral signatures.

  5. Specialized Imaging Techniques:

    • Ultrasound Layer: Used in medical imaging to visualize soft tissues and blood flow. Separate layers for different ultrasound modes (e.g., B-mode, Doppler) help in detailed annotation of tissues and blood vessels.

    • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Layer: PET scans show metabolic activity within the body. Annotators can label areas of high and low metabolic activity to identify potential abnormalities.

How to Use Multilayer Views on Kili Technology

Kili Technology offers tools to leverage multilayer views for annotating images. To use the multilayer annotation feature, start by importing images via the Python SDK. Populate the multi_layer_content_array attribute when using the append_many_to_dataset method to include images.

Once the images are imported, open the asset in the image labeling interface and switch between layers in the right-hand panel. This functionality extends beyond geospatial images to other types of images, enabling comprehensive annotation capabilities.

Check out our Python SDK documentation

Enhancing Quality Control in Image Annotation

Combining robust quality control mechanisms with advanced image annotation tools is essential for producing high-quality image annotations. Kili Technology provides best practices for implementing a quality workflow that includes several key steps:

  1. Review and Feedback Loops:

    • Annotation Review: Each annotation can be reviewed independently by different annotators or experts, ensuring that each aspect of the image is accurately labeled. This targeted review process helps identify and correct errors, enhancing overall annotation quality.

    • Feedback Integration: Annotators can receive detailed feedback on their work, allowing for focused improvements and consistent quality across all annotations.

  2. Consensus and Benchmarking:

    • Inter-Annotator Agreement: By having multiple annotators work on the same images independently, Kili Technology enables the measurement of inter-annotator agreement. This consensus approach ensures that annotations are consistent and reliable.

    • Benchmarking Quality: Annotations can be benchmarked against gold standard datasets, providing a clear metric for quality and identifying areas that need improvement.

  3. Automated Quality Checks:

    • Validation Tools: Automated tools can validate annotations, checking for common errors such as missing labels, incorrect classifications, or inconsistencies. These automated checks can flag issues for human review, streamlining the quality control process.

  4. Continuous Improvement:

    • Iterative Refinement: A continuous improvement approach supports iterative refinement, where annotations can be continuously improved based on feedback and quality checks. This iterative process ensures that the dataset evolves and maintains high standards over time.

For more detailed information on implementing these quality control mechanisms, refer to the our documentation.


A multilayered view of an image is crucial for accurate and comprehensive image annotation. This approach allows annotators to focus on different aspects of the image, provide more precise and detailed labels, and improve the performance of machine learning models. When combined with robust quality control mechanisms, high-quality image annotation ensures a superior image dataset, making it invaluable across various industries. From autonomous vehicles to image management, material science, and microscopy, effective annotation and quality control workflows together enhance the field of all computer vision applications.

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