Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)
Bo Xin, Yizhou Wang, Wen Gao, David Wipf, Baoyuan Wang
The iterations of many sparse estimation algorithms are comprised of a fixed linear filter cascaded with a thresholding nonlinearity, which collectively resemble a typical neural network layer. Consequently, a lengthy sequence of algorithm iterations can be viewed as a deep network with shared, hand-crafted layer weights. It is therefore quite natural to examine the degree to which a learned network model might act as a viable surrogate for traditional sparse estimation in domains where ample training data is available. While the possibility of a reduced computational budget is readily apparent when a ceiling is imposed on the number of layers, our work primarily focuses on estimation accuracy. In particular, it is well-known that when a signal dictionary has coherent columns, as quantified by a large RIP constant, then most tractable iterative algorithms are unable to find maximally sparse representations. In contrast, we demonstrate both theoretically and empirically the potential for a trained deep network to recover minimal $\ell_0$-norm representations in regimes where existing methods fail. The resulting system, which can effectively learn novel iterative sparse estimation algorithms, is deployed on a practical photometric stereo estimation problem, where the goal is to remove sparse outliers that can disrupt the estimation of surface normals from a 3D scene.