Fast and Scalable Training of Semi-Supervised CRFs with Application to Activity Recognition

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 20 (NIPS 2007)

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Maryam Mahdaviani, Tanzeem Choudhury


We present a new and efficient semi-supervised training method for parameter estimation and feature selection in conditional random fields (CRFs). In real-world applications such as activity recognition, unlabeled sensor traces are relatively easy to obtain whereas labeled examples are expensive and tedious to collect. Furthermore, the ability to automatically select a small subset of discriminatory features from a large pool can be advantageous in terms of computational speed as well as accuracy. In this paper, we introduce the semi-supervised virtual evidence boosting (sVEB) algorithm for training CRFs -- a semi-supervised extension to the recently developed virtual evidence boosting (VEB) method for feature selection and parameter learning. Semi-supervised VEB takes advantage of the unlabeled data via minimum entropy regularization -- the objective function combines the unlabeled conditional entropy with labeled conditional pseudo-likelihood. The sVEB algorithm reduces the overall system cost as well as the human labeling cost required during training, which are both important considerations in building real world inference systems. In a set of experiments on synthetic data and real activity traces collected from wearable sensors, we illustrate that our algorithm benefits from both the use of unlabeled data and automatic feature selection, and outperforms other semi-supervised training approaches.