Deep Symmetry Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Robert Gens, Pedro M. Domingos


The chief difficulty in object recognition is that objects' classes are obscured by a large number of extraneous sources of variability, such as pose and part deformation. These sources of variation can be represented by symmetry groups, sets of composable transformations that preserve object identity. Convolutional neural networks (convnets) achieve a degree of translational invariance by computing feature maps over the translation group, but cannot handle other groups. As a result, these groups' effects have to be approximated by small translations, which often requires augmenting datasets and leads to high sample complexity. In this paper, we introduce deep symmetry networks (symnets), a generalization of convnets that forms feature maps over arbitrary symmetry groups. Symnets use kernel-based interpolation to tractably tie parameters and pool over symmetry spaces of any dimension. Like convnets, they are trained with backpropagation. The composition of feature transformations through the layers of a symnet provides a new approach to deep learning. Experiments on NORB and MNIST-rot show that symnets over the affine group greatly reduce sample complexity relative to convnets by better capturing the symmetries in the data.