Canonical normalizing flows for manifold learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Kyriakos Flouris, Ender Konukoglu


Manifold learning flows are a class of generative modelling techniques that assume a low-dimensional manifold description of the data. The embedding of such a manifold into the high-dimensional space of the data is achieved via learnable invertible transformations. Therefore, once the manifold is properly aligned via a reconstruction loss, the probability density is tractable on the manifold and maximum likelihood can be used to optimize the network parameters. Naturally, the lower-dimensional representation of the data requires an injective-mapping. Recent approaches were able to enforce that the density aligns with the modelled manifold, while efficiently calculating the density volume-change term when embedding to the higher-dimensional space. However, unless the injective-mapping is analytically predefined, the learned manifold is not necessarily an \emph{efficient representation} of the data. Namely, the latent dimensions of such models frequently learn an entangled intrinsic basis, with degenerate information being stored in each dimension. Alternatively, if a locally orthogonal and/or sparse basis is to be learned, here coined canonical intrinsic basis, it can serve in learning a more compact latent space representation. Toward this end, we propose a canonical manifold learning flow method, where a novel optimization objective enforces the transformation matrix to have few prominent and non-degenerate basis functions. We demonstrate that by minimizing the off-diagonal manifold metric elements $\ell_1$-norm, we can achieve such a basis, which is simultaneously sparse and/or orthogonal. Canonical manifold flow yields a more efficient use of the latent space, automatically generating fewer prominent and distinct dimensions to represent data, and consequently a better approximation of target distributions than other manifold flow methods in most experiments we conducted, resulting in lower FID scores.