Authors: Feng Zhang, Xiatian Zhu, Hanbin Dai, Mao Ye, Ce Zhu Description: While being the de facto standard coordinate representation for human pose estimation, heatmap has not been investigated in-depth. This work fills this gap. For the first time, we find that the process of decoding the predicted heatmaps into the final joint coordinates in the original image space is surprisingly significant for the performance. We further probe the design limitations of the standard coordinate decoding method, and propose a more principled distributionaware decoding method. Also, we improve the standard coordinate encoding process (i.e. transforming ground-truth coordinates to heatmaps) by generating unbiased/accurate heatmaps. Taking the two together, we formulate a novel Distribution-Aware coordinate Representation of Keypoints (DARK) method. Serving as a model-agnostic plug-in, DARK brings about significant performance boost to existing human pose estimation models. Extensive experiments show that DARK yields the best results on two common benchmarks, MPII and COCO. Besides, DARK achieves the 2nd place entry in the ICCV 2019 COCO Keypoints Challenge. The code is available online.