On nonparametric guidance for learning autoencoder representations

Jasper Snoek, Ryan Prescott Adams, Hugo Larochelle

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Unsupervised discovery of latent representations, in addition to being useful for density modeling, visualisation and exploratory data analysis, is also increasingly important for learning features relevant to discriminative tasks. Autoencoders, in particular, have proven to be an effective way to learn latent codes that reflect meaningful variations in data. A continuing challenge, however, is guiding an autoencoder toward representations that are useful for particular tasks. A complementary challenge is to find codes that are invariant to irrelevant transformations of the data. The most common way of introducing such problem-specific guidance in autoencoders has been through the incorporation of a parametric component that ties the latent representation to the label information. In this work, we argue that a preferable approach relies instead on a nonparametric guidance mechanism. Conceptually, it ensures that there exists a function that can predict the label information, without explicitly instantiating that function. The superiority of this guidance mechanism is confirmed on two datasets. In particular, this approach is able to incorporate invariance information (lighting, elevation, etc.) from the small NORB object recognition dataset and yields state-of-the-art performance for a single layer, non-convolutional network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1073-1080
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Machine Learning Research
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event15th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, AISTATS 2012 - La Palma, Spain
Duration: Apr 21 2012Apr 23 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Statistics and Probability


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