July 02, 2020
Line Walking and Balancing for Legged Robots with Point Feet
Carlos Gonzalez, Victor Barasuol, Marco Frigerio, Roy Featherstone, Darwin G. Caldwell, Claudio Semini

The ability of legged systems to traverse highly-constrained environments depends by and large on the performance of their motion and balance controllers. This paper presents a controller that excels in a scenario that most state-of-the-art balance controllers have not yet addressed: line walking, or walking on nearly null support regions. Our approach uses a low-dimensional virtual model (2-DoF) to generate balancing actions through a previously derived four-term balance controller and transforms them to the robot through a derived kinematic mapping. The capabilities of this controller are tested in simulation, where we show the 90kg quadruped robot HyQ crossing a bridge of only 6 cm width (compared to its 4 cm diameter foot sphere), by balancing on two feet at any time while moving along a line. Additional simulations are carried to test the performance of the controller and the effect of external disturbances. The same controller is then used on the real robot to present for the first time a legged robot balancing on a contact line of nearly null support area.

July 01, 2020
Object Goal Navigation using Goal-Oriented Semantic Exploration
Devendra Singh Chaplot, Dhiraj Gandhi, Abhinav Gupta, Ruslan Salakhutdinov

This work studies the problem of object goal navigation which involves navigating to an instance of the given object category in unseen environments. End-to-end learning-based navigation methods struggle at this task as they are ineffective at exploration and long-term planning. We propose a modular system called, `Goal-Oriented Semantic Exploration' which builds an episodic semantic map and uses it to explore the environment efficiently based on the goal object category. Empirical results in visually realistic simulation environments show that the proposed model outperforms a wide range of baselines including end-to-end learning-based methods as well as modular map-based methods and led to the winning entry of the CVPR-2020 Habitat ObjectNav Challenge. Ablation analysis indicates that the proposed model learns semantic priors of the relative arrangement of objects in a scene, and uses them to explore efficiently. Domain-agnostic module design allow us to transfer our model to a mobile robot platform and achieve similar performance for object goal navigation in the real-world.

Causal Discovery in Physical Systems from Videos
Yunzhu Li, Antonio Torralba, Animashree Anandkumar, Dieter Fox, Animesh Garg

Causal discovery is at the core of human cognition. It enables us to reason about the environment and make counterfactual predictions about unseen scenarios, that can vastly differ from our previous experiences. We consider the task of causal discovery from videos in an end-to-end fashion without supervision on the ground-truth graph structure. In particular, our goal is to discover the structural dependencies among environmental and object variables: inferring the type and strength of interactions that have a causal effect on the behavior of the dynamical system. Our model consists of (a) a perception module that extracts a semantically meaningful and temporally consistent keypoint representation from images, (b) an inference module for determining the graph distribution induced by the detected keypoints, and (c) a dynamics module that can predict the future by conditioning on the inferred graph. We assume access to different configurations and environmental conditions, i.e., data from unknown interventions on the underlying system; thus, we can hope to discover the correct underlying causal graph without explicit interventions. We evaluate our method in a planar multi-body interaction environment and scenarios involving fabrics of different shapes like shirts and pants. Experiments demonstrate that our model can correctly identify the interactions from a short sequence of images and make long-term future predictions. The causal structure assumed by the model also allows it to make counterfactual predictions and extrapolate to systems of unseen interaction graphs or graphs of various sizes.

Debiased Contrastive Learning
Ching-Yao Chuang, Joshua Robinson, Lin Yen-Chen, Antonio Torralba, Stefanie Jegelka

A prominent technique for self-supervised representation learning has been to contrast semantically similar and dissimilar pairs of samples. Without access to labels, dissimilar (negative) points are typically taken to be randomly sampled datapoints, implicitly accepting that these points may, in reality, actually have the same label. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we observe that sampling negative examples from truly different labels improves performance, in a synthetic setting where labels are available. Motivated by this observation, we develop a debiased contrastive objective that corrects for the sampling of same-label datapoints, even without knowledge of the true labels. Empirically, the proposed objective consistently outperforms the state-of-the-art for representation learning in vision, language, and reinforcement learning benchmarks. Theoretically, we establish generalization bounds for the downstream classification task.

June 30, 2020
GShard: Scaling Giant Models with Conditional Computation and Automatic Sharding
Dmitry Lepikhin, HyoukJoong Lee, Yuanzhong Xu, Dehao Chen, Orhan Firat, Yanping Huang, Maxim Krikun, Noam Shazeer, Zhifeng Chen

Neural network scaling has been critical for improving the model quality in many real-world machine learning applications with vast amounts of training data and compute. Although this trend of scaling is affirmed to be a sure-fire approach for better model quality, there are challenges on the path such as the computation cost, ease of programming, and efficient implementation on parallel devices. GShard is a module composed of a set of lightweight annotation APIs and an extension to the XLA compiler. It provides an elegant way to express a wide range of parallel computation patterns with minimal changes to the existing model code. GShard enabled us to scale up multilingual neural machine translation Transformer model with Sparsely-Gated Mixture-of-Experts beyond 600 billion parameters using automatic sharding. We demonstrate that such a giant model can efficiently be trained on 2048 TPU v3 accelerators in 4 days to achieve far superior quality for translation from 100 languages to English compared to the prior art.

Involutive MCMC: a Unifying Framework
Kirill Neklyudov, Max Welling, Evgenii Egorov, Dmitry Vetrov

Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) is a computational approach to fundamental problems such as inference, integration, optimization, and simulation. The field has developed a broad spectrum of algorithms, varying in the way they are motivated, the way they are applied and how efficiently they sample. Despite all the differences, many of them share the same core principle, which we unify as the Involutive MCMC (iMCMC) framework. Building upon this, we describe a wide range of MCMC algorithms in terms of iMCMC, and formulate a number of "tricks" which one can use as design principles for developing new MCMC algorithms. Thus, iMCMC provides a unified view of many known MCMC algorithms, which facilitates the derivation of powerful extensions. We demonstrate the latter with two examples where we transform known reversible MCMC algorithms into more efficient irreversible ones.

June 26, 2020
What can I do here? A Theory of Affordances in Reinforcement Learning
Khimya Khetarpal, Zafarali Ahmed, Gheorghe Comanici, David Abel, Doina Precup

Reinforcement learning algorithms usually assume that all actions are always available to an agent. However, both people and animals understand the general link between the features of their environment and the actions that are feasible. Gibson (1977) coined the term "affordances" to describe the fact that certain states enable an agent to do certain actions, in the context of embodied agents. In this paper, we develop a theory of affordances for agents who learn and plan in Markov Decision Processes. Affordances play a dual role in this case. On one hand, they allow faster planning, by reducing the number of actions available in any given situation. On the other hand, they facilitate more efficient and precise learning of transition models from data, especially when such models require function approximation. We establish these properties through theoretical results as well as illustrative examples. We also propose an approach to learn affordances and use it to estimate transition models that are simpler and generalize better.

Object-Centric Learning with Slot Attention
Francesco Locatello, Dirk Weissenborn, Thomas Unterthiner, Aravindh Mahendran, Georg Heigold, Jakob Uszkoreit, Alexey Dosovitskiy, Thomas Kipf

Learning object-centric representations of complex scenes is a promising step towards enabling efficient abstract reasoning from low-level perceptual features. Yet, most deep learning approaches learn distributed representations that do not capture the compositional properties of natural scenes. In this paper, we present the Slot Attention module, an architectural component that interfaces with perceptual representations such as the output of a convolutional neural network and produces a set of task-dependent abstract representations which we call slots. These slots are exchangeable and can bind to any object in the input by specializing through a competitive procedure over multiple rounds of attention. We empirically demonstrate that Slot Attention can extract object-centric representations that enable generalization to unseen compositions when trained on unsupervised object discovery and supervised property prediction tasks.

The Sci-hub Effect: Sci-hub downloads lead to more article citations
J. C. Correa, H. Laverde-Rojas, F. Marmolejo-Ramos, J. Tejada, Š. Bahník

Citations are often used as a metric of the impact of scientific publications. Here, we examine how the number of downloads from Sci-hub as well as various characteristics of publications and their authors predicts future citations. Using data from 12 leading journals in economics, consumer research, neuroscience, and multidisciplinary research, we found that articles downloaded from Sci-hub were cited 1.72 times more than papers not downloaded from Sci-hub and that the number of downloads from Sci-hub was a robust predictor of future citations. Among other characteristics of publications, the number of figures in a manuscript consistently predicts its future citations. The results suggest that limited access to publications may limit some scientific research from achieving its full impact.

Evaluation of Text Generation: A Survey
Asli Celikyilmaz, Elizabeth Clark, Jianfeng Gao

The paper surveys evaluation methods of natural language generation (NLG) systems that have been developed in the last few years. We group NLG evaluation methods into three categories: (1) human-centric evaluation metrics, (2) automatic metrics that require no training, and (3) machine-learned metrics. For each category, we discuss the progress that has been made and the challenges still being faced, with a focus on the evaluation of recently proposed NLG tasks and neural NLG models. We then present two case studies of automatic text summarization and long text generation, and conclude the paper by proposing future research directions.

June 25, 2020
Unsupervised deep learning identifies semantic disentanglement in single inferotemporal neurons
Irina Higgins, Le Chang, Victoria Langston, Demis Hassabis, Christopher Summerfield, Doris Tsao, Matthew Botvinick

Deep supervised neural networks trained to classify objects have emerged as popular models of computation in the primate ventral stream. These models represent information with a high-dimensional distributed population code, implying that inferotemporal (IT) responses are also too complex to interpret at the single-neuron level. We challenge this view by modelling neural responses to faces in the macaque IT with a deep unsupervised generative model, beta-VAE. Unlike deep classifiers, beta-VAE "disentangles" sensory data into interpretable latent factors, such as gender or hair length. We found a remarkable correspondence between the generative factors discovered by the model and those coded by single IT neurons. Moreover, we were able to reconstruct face images using the signals from just a handful of cells. This suggests that the ventral visual stream may be optimising the disentangling objective, producing a neural code that is low-dimensional and semantically interpretable at the single-unit level.

Smooth Adversarial Training
Cihang Xie, Mingxing Tan, Boqing Gong, Alan Yuille, Quoc V. Le

It is commonly believed that networks cannot be both accurate and robust, that gaining robustness means losing accuracy. It is also generally believed that, unless making networks larger, network architectural elements would otherwise matter little in improving adversarial robustness. Here we present evidence to challenge these common beliefs by a careful study about adversarial training. Our key observation is that the widely-used ReLU activation function significantly weakens adversarial training due to its non-smooth nature. Hence we propose smooth adversarial training (SAT), in which we replace ReLU with its smooth approximations to strengthen adversarial training. The purpose of smooth activation functions in SAT is to allow it to find harder adversarial examples and compute better gradient updates during adversarial training. Compared to standard adversarial training, SAT improves adversarial robustness for "free", i.e., no drop in accuracy and no increase in computational cost. For example, without introducing additional computations, SAT significantly enhances ResNet-50's robustness from 33.0% to 42.3%, while also improving accuracy by 0.9% on ImageNet. SAT also works well with larger networks: it helps EfficientNet-L1 to achieve 82.2% accuracy and 58.6% robustness on ImageNet, outperforming the previous state-of-the-art defense by 9.5% for accuracy and 11.6% for robustness.

June 24, 2020
Compositional Explanations of Neurons
Jesse Mu, Jacob Andreas

We describe a procedure for explaining neurons in deep representations by identifying compositional logical concepts that closely approximate neuron behavior. Compared to prior work that uses atomic labels as explanations, analyzing neurons compositionally allows us to more precisely and expressively characterize their behavior. We use this procedure to answer several questions on interpretability in models for vision and natural language processing. First, we examine the kinds of abstractions learned by neurons. In image classification, we find that many neurons learn highly abstract but semantically coherent visual concepts, while other polysemantic neurons detect multiple unrelated features; in natural language inference (NLI), neurons learn shallow lexical heuristics from dataset biases. Second, we see whether compositional explanations give us insight into model performance: vision neurons that detect human-interpretable concepts are positively correlated with task performance, while NLI neurons that fire for shallow heuristics are negatively correlated with task performance. Finally, we show how compositional explanations provide an accessible way for end users to produce simple "copy-paste" adversarial examples that change model behavior in predictable ways.

Off-Dynamics Reinforcement Learning: Training for Transfer with Domain Classifiers
Benjamin Eysenbach, Swapnil Asawa, Shreyas Chaudhari, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, Sergey Levine

We propose a simple, practical, and intuitive approach for domain adaptation in reinforcement learning. Our approach stems from the idea that the agent's experience in the source domain should look similar to its experience in the target domain. Building off of a probabilistic view of RL, we formally show that we can achieve this goal by compensating for the difference in dynamics by modifying the reward function. This modified reward function is simple to estimate by learning auxiliary classifiers that distinguish source-domain transitions from target-domain transitions. Intuitively, the modified reward function penalizes the agent for visiting states and taking actions in the source domain which are not possible in the target domain. Said another way, the agent is penalized for transitions that would indicate that the agent is interacting with the source domain, rather than the target domain. Our approach is applicable to domains with continuous states and actions and does not require learning an explicit model of the dynamics. On discrete and continuous control tasks, we illustrate the mechanics of our approach and demonstrate its scalability to high-dimensional tasks.

June 23, 2020
Disentangling by Subspace Diffusion
David Pfau, Irina Higgins, Aleksandar Botev, Sébastien Racanière

We present a novel nonparametric algorithm for symmetry-based disentangling of data manifolds, the Geometric Manifold Component Estimator (GEOMANCER). GEOMANCER provides a partial answer to the question posed by Higgins et al. (2018): is it possible to learn how to factorize a Lie group solely from observations of the orbit of an object it acts on? We show that fully unsupervised factorization of a data manifold is possible *if* the true metric of the manifold is known and each factor manifold has nontrivial holonomy -- for example, rotation in 3D. Our algorithm works by estimating the subspaces that are invariant under random walk diffusion, giving an approximation to the de Rham decomposition from differential geometry. We demonstrate the efficacy of GEOMANCER on several complex synthetic manifolds. Our work reduces the question of whether unsupervised disentangling is possible to the question of whether unsupervised metric learning is possible, providing a unifying insight into the geometric nature of representation learning.

Simple and Effective VAE Training with Calibrated Decoders
Oleh Rybkin, Kostas Daniilidis, Sergey Levine

Variational autoencoders (VAEs) provide an effective and simple method for modeling complex distributions. However, training VAEs often requires considerable hyperparameter tuning, and often utilizes a heuristic weight on the prior KL-divergence term. In this work, we study how the performance of VAEs can be improved while not requiring the use of this heuristic hyperparameter, by learning calibrated decoders that accurately model the decoding distribution. While in some sense it may seem obvious that calibrated decoders should perform better than uncalibrated decoders, much of the recent literature that employs VAEs uses uncalibrated Gaussian decoders with constant variance. We observe empirically that the na\"{i}ve way of learning variance in Gaussian decoders does not lead to good results. However, {other calibrated decoders, such as discrete decoders or learning shared variance} can substantially improve performance. To further improve results, we propose a simple but novel modification to the commonly used Gaussian decoder, which represents the prediction variance non-parametrically. We observe empirically that using the heuristic weight hyperparameter is not necessary with our method. We analyze the performance of various discrete and continuous decoders on a range of datasets and several single-image and sequential VAE models. Project website: \url{https://orybkin.github.io/sigma-vae/}

Direct Feedback Alignment Scales to Modern Deep Learning Tasks and Architectures
Julien Launay, Iacopo Poli, François Boniface, Florent Krzakala

Despite being the workhorse of deep learning, the backpropagation algorithm is no panacea. It enforces sequential layer updates, thus preventing efficient parallelization of the training process. Furthermore, its biological plausibility is being challenged. Alternative schemes have been devised; yet, under the constraint of synaptic asymmetry, none have scaled to modern deep learning tasks and architectures. Here, we challenge this perspective, and study the applicability of Direct Feedback Alignment to neural view synthesis, recommender systems, geometric learning, and natural language processing. In contrast with previous studies limited to computer vision tasks, our findings show that it successfully trains a large range of state-of-the-art deep learning architectures, with performance close to fine-tuned backpropagation. At variance with common beliefs, our work supports that challenging tasks can be tackled in the absence of weight transport.

Automatic Data Augmentation for Generalization in Deep Reinforcement Learning
Roberta Raileanu, Max Goldstein, Denis Yarats, Ilya Kostrikov, Rob Fergus

Deep reinforcement learning (RL) agents often fail to generalize to unseen scenarios, even when they are trained on many instances of semantically similar environments. Data augmentation has recently been shown to improve the sample efficiency and generalization of RL agents. However, different tasks tend to benefit from different kinds of data augmentation. In this paper, we compare three approaches for automatically finding an appropriate augmentation. These are combined with two novel regularization terms for the policy and value function, required to make the use of data augmentation theoretically sound for certain actor-critic algorithms. We evaluate our methods on the Procgen benchmark which consists of 16 procedurally-generated environments and show that it improves test performance by ~40% relative to standard RL algorithms. Our agent outperforms other baselines specifically designed to improve generalization in RL. In addition, we show that our agent learns policies and representations that are more robust to changes in the environment that do not affect the agent, such as the background. Our implementation is available at https://github.com/rraileanu/auto-drac.

Learning Physical Graph Representations from Visual Scenes
Daniel M. Bear, Chaofei Fan, Damian Mrowca, Yunzhu Li, Seth Alter, Aran Nayebi, Jeremy Schwartz, Li Fei-Fei, Jiajun Wu, Joshua B. Tenenbaum, Daniel L. K. Yamins

Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) have proved exceptional at learning representations for visual object categorization. However, CNNs do not explicitly encode objects, parts, and their physical properties, which has limited CNNs' success on tasks that require structured understanding of visual scenes. To overcome these limitations, we introduce the idea of Physical Scene Graphs (PSGs), which represent scenes as hierarchical graphs, with nodes in the hierarchy corresponding intuitively to object parts at different scales, and edges to physical connections between parts. Bound to each node is a vector of latent attributes that intuitively represent object properties such as surface shape and texture. We also describe PSGNet, a network architecture that learns to extract PSGs by reconstructing scenes through a PSG-structured bottleneck. PSGNet augments standard CNNs by including: recurrent feedback connections to combine low and high-level image information; graph pooling and vectorization operations that convert spatially-uniform feature maps into object-centric graph structures; and perceptual grouping principles to encourage the identification of meaningful scene elements. We show that PSGNet outperforms alternative self-supervised scene representation algorithms at scene segmentation tasks, especially on complex real-world images, and generalizes well to unseen object types and scene arrangements. PSGNet is also able learn from physical motion, enhancing scene estimates even for static images. We present a series of ablation studies illustrating the importance of each component of the PSGNet architecture, analyses showing that learned latent attributes capture intuitive scene properties, and illustrate the use of PSGs for compositional scene inference.

Differentiable Rendering: A Survey
Hiroharu Kato, Deniz Beker, Mihai Morariu, Takahiro Ando, Toru Matsuoka, Wadim Kehl, Adrien Gaidon

Deep neural networks (DNNs) have shown remarkable performance improvements on vision-related tasks such as object detection or image segmentation. Despite their success, they generally lack the understanding of 3D objects which form the image, as it is not always possible to collect 3D information about the scene or to easily annotate it. Differentiable rendering is a novel field which allows the gradients of 3D objects to be calculated and propagated through images. It also reduces the requirement of 3D data collection and annotation, while enabling higher success rate in various applications. This paper reviews existing literature and discusses the current state of differentiable rendering, its applications and open research problems.

June 21, 2020
Finding Patient Zero: Learning Contagion Source with Graph Neural Networks
Chintan Shah, Nima Dehmamy, Nicola Perra, Matteo Chinazzi, Albert-László Barabási, Alessandro Vespignani, Rose Yu

Locating the source of an epidemic, or patient zero (P0), can provide critical insights into the infection's transmission course and allow efficient resource allocation. Existing methods use graph-theoretic centrality measures and expensive message-passing algorithms, requiring knowledge of the underlying dynamics and its parameters. In this paper, we revisit this problem using graph neural networks (GNNs) to learn P0. We establish a theoretical limit for the identification of P0 in a class of epidemic models. We evaluate our method against different epidemic models on both synthetic and a real-world contact network considering a disease with history and characteristics of COVID-19. % We observe that GNNs can identify P0 close to the theoretical bound on accuracy, without explicit input of dynamics or its parameters. In addition, GNN is over 100 times faster than classic methods for inference on arbitrary graph topologies. Our theoretical bound also shows that the epidemic is like a ticking clock, emphasizing the importance of early contact-tracing. We find a maximum time after which accurate recovery of the source becomes impossible, regardless of the algorithm used.

Feel The Music: Automatically Generating A Dance For An Input Song
Purva Tendulkar, Abhishek Das, Aniruddha Kembhavi, Devi Parikh

We present a general computational approach that enables a machine to generate a dance for any input music. We encode intuitive, flexible heuristics for what a 'good' dance is: the structure of the dance should align with the structure of the music. This flexibility allows the agent to discover creative dances. Human studies show that participants find our dances to be more creative and inspiring compared to meaningful baselines. We also evaluate how perception of creativity changes based on different presentations of the dance. Our code is available at https://github.com/purvaten/feel-the-music.

June 20, 2020
wav2vec 2.0: A Framework for Self-Supervised Learning of Speech Representations
Alexei Baevski, Henry Zhou, Abdelrahman Mohamed, Michael Auli

We show for the first time that learning powerful representations from speech audio alone followed by fine-tuning on transcribed speech can outperform the best semi-supervised methods while being conceptually simpler. wav2vec 2.0 masks the speech input in the latent space and solves a contrastive task defined over a quantization of the latent representations which are jointly learned. We set a new state of the art on both the 100 hour subset of Librispeech as well as on TIMIT phoneme recognition. When lowering the amount of labeled data to one hour, our model outperforms the previous state of the art on the 100 hour subset while using 100 times less labeled data. Using just ten minutes of labeled data and pre-training on 53k hours of unlabeled data still achieves 5.7/10.1 WER on the noisy/clean test sets of Librispeech. This demonstrates the feasibility of speech recognition with limited amounts of labeled data. Fine-tuning on all of Librispeech achieves 1.9/3.5 WER using a simple baseline model architecture. We will release code and models.

June 19, 2020
Evaluating Prediction-Time Batch Normalization for Robustness under Covariate Shift
Zachary Nado, Shreyas Padhy, D. Sculley, Alexander D'Amour, Balaji Lakshminarayanan, Jasper Snoek

Covariate shift has been shown to sharply degrade both predictive accuracy and the calibration of uncertainty estimates for deep learning models. This is worrying, because covariate shift is prevalent in a wide range of real world deployment settings. However, in this paper, we note that frequently there exists the potential to access small unlabeled batches of the shifted data just before prediction time. This interesting observation enables a simple but surprisingly effective method which we call prediction-time batch normalization, which significantly improves model accuracy and calibration under covariate shift. Using this one line code change, we achieve state-of-the-art on recent covariate shift benchmarks and an mCE of 60.28\% on the challenging ImageNet-C dataset; to our knowledge, this is the best result for any model that does not incorporate additional data augmentation or modification of the training pipeline. We show that prediction-time batch normalization provides complementary benefits to existing state-of-the-art approaches for improving robustness (e.g. deep ensembles) and combining the two further improves performance. Our findings are supported by detailed measurements of the effect of this strategy on model behavior across rigorous ablations on various dataset modalities. However, the method has mixed results when used alongside pre-training, and does not seem to perform as well under more natural types of dataset shift, and is therefore worthy of additional study. We include links to the data in our figures to improve reproducibility, including a Python notebooks that can be run to easily modify our analysis at https://colab.research.google.com/drive/11N0wDZnMQQuLrRwRoumDCrhSaIhkqjof.

Discovering Symbolic Models from Deep Learning with Inductive Biases
Miles Cranmer, Alvaro Sanchez-Gonzalez, Peter Battaglia, Rui Xu, Kyle Cranmer, David Spergel, Shirley Ho

We develop a general approach to distill symbolic representations of a learned deep model by introducing strong inductive biases. We focus on Graph Neural Networks (GNNs). The technique works as follows: we first encourage sparse latent representations when we train a GNN in a supervised setting, then we apply symbolic regression to components of the learned model to extract explicit physical relations. We find the correct known equations, including force laws and Hamiltonians, can be extracted from the neural network. We then apply our method to a non-trivial cosmology example-a detailed dark matter simulation-and discover a new analytic formula which can predict the concentration of dark matter from the mass distribution of nearby cosmic structures. The symbolic expressions extracted from the GNN using our technique also generalized to out-of-distribution data better than the GNN itself. Our approach offers alternative directions for interpreting neural networks and discovering novel physical principles from the representations they learn.