Research papers and code for "Chao Ma":
This paper surveys some recent developments in fundamental limits and optimal algorithms for network analysis. We focus on minimax optimal rates in three fundamental problems of network analysis: graphon estimation, community detection, and hypothesis testing. For each problem, we review state-of-the-art results in the literature followed by general principles behind the optimal procedures that lead to minimax estimation and testing. This allows us to connect problems in network analysis to other statistical inference problems from a general perspective.

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One of the key issues in the analysis of machine learning models is to identify the appropriate function space for the model. This is the space of functions that the particular machine learning model can approximate with good accuracy, endowed with a natural norm associated with the approximation process. In this paper, we address this issue for two representative neural network models: the two-layer networks and the residual neural networks. We define Barron space and show that it is the right space for two-layer neural network models in the sense that optimal direct and inverse approximation theorems hold for functions in the Barron space. For residual neural network models, we construct the so-called compositional function space, and prove direct and inverse approximation theorems for this space. In addition, we show that the Rademacher complexity has the optimal upper bounds for these spaces.

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A fairly comprehensive analysis is presented for the gradient descent dynamics for training two-layer neural network models in the situation when the parameters in both layers are updated. General initialization schemes as well as general regimes for the network width and training data size are considered. In the over-parametrized regime, it is shown that gradient descent dynamics can achieve zero training loss exponentially fast regardless of the quality of the labels. In addition, it is proved that throughout the training process the functions represented by the neural network model are uniformly close to that of a kernel method. For general values of the network width and training data size, sharp estimates of the generalization error is established for target functions in the appropriate reproducing kernel Hilbert space. Our analysis suggests strongly that in terms of `implicit regularization', two-layer neural network models do not outperform the kernel method.

* 30 pages, 5 figures
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Optimal a priori estimates are derived for the population risk of a regularized residual network model. The key lies in the designing of a new path norm, called the weighted path norm, which serves as the regularization term in the regularized model. The weighted path norm treats the skip connections and the nonlinearities differently so that paths with more nonlinearities have larger weights. The error estimates are a priori in nature in the sense that the estimates depend only on the target function and not on the parameters obtained in the training process. The estimates are optimal in the sense that the bound scales as O(1/L) with the network depth and the estimation error is comparable to the Monte Carlo error rates. In particular, optimal error bounds are obtained, for the first time, in terms of the depth of the network model. Comparisons are made with existing norm-based generalization error bounds.

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New estimates for the generalization error are established for the two-layer neural network model. These new estimates are a priori in nature in the sense that the bounds depend only on some norms of the underlying functions to be fitted, not the parameters in the model. In contrast, most existing results for neural networks are a posteriori in nature in the sense that the bounds depend on some norms of the model parameters. The error rates are comparable to that of the Monte Carlo method for integration problems. Moreover, these bounds are equally effective in the over-parametrized regime when the network size is much larger than the size of the dataset.

* 14 pages, 2 figures
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The well-known Mori-Zwanzig theory tells us that model reduction leads to memory effect. For a long time, modeling the memory effect accurately and efficiently has been an important but nearly impossible task in developing a good reduced model. In this work, we explore a natural analogy between recurrent neural networks and the Mori-Zwanzig formalism to establish a systematic approach for developing reduced models with memory. Two training models-a direct training model and a dynamically coupled training model-are proposed and compared. We apply these methods to the Kuramoto-Sivashinsky equation and the Navier-Stokes equation. Numerical experiments show that the proposed method can produce reduced model with good performance on both short-term prediction and long-term statistical properties.

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Existing deep multi-object tracking (MOT) approaches first learn a deep representation to describe target objects and then associate detection results by optimizing a linear assignment problem. Despite demonstrated successes, it is challenging to discriminate target objects under mutual occlusion or to reduce identity switches in crowded scenes. In this paper, we propose learning deep conditional random field (CRF) networks, aiming to model the assignment costs as unary potentials and the long-term dependencies among detection results as pairwise potentials. Specifically, we use a bidirectional long short-term memory (LSTM) network to encode the long-term dependencies. We pose the CRF inference as a recurrent neural network learning process using the standard gradient descent algorithm, where unary and pairwise potentials are jointly optimized in an end-to-end manner. Extensive experimental results on the challenging MOT datasets including MOT-2015 and MOT-2016, demonstrate that our approach achieves the state of the art performances in comparison with published works on both benchmarks.

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The behavior of the gradient descent (GD) algorithm is analyzed for a deep neural network model with skip-connections. It is proved that in the over-parametrized regime, for a suitable initialization, with high probability GD can find a global minimum exponentially fast. Generalization error estimates along the GD path are also established. As a consequence, it is shown that when the target function is in the reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS) with a kernel defined by the initialization, there exist generalizable early-stopping solutions along the GD path. In addition, it is also shown that the GD path is uniformly close to the functions given by the related random feature model. Consequently, in this "implicit regularization" setting, the deep neural network model deteriorates to a random feature model. Our results hold for neural networks of any width larger than the input dimension.

* 29 pages, 4 figures
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This paper introduces the variational implicit processes (VIPs), a Bayesian nonparametric method based on a class of highly flexible priors over functions. Similar to Gaussian processes (GPs), in implicit processes (IPs), an implicit multivariate prior (data simulators, Bayesian neural networks, etc.) is placed over any finite collections of random variables. A novel and efficient variational inference algorithm for IPs is derived using wake-sleep updates, which gives analytic solutions and allows scalable hyper-parameter learning with stochastic optimization. Experiments on real-world regression datasets demonstrate that VIPs return better uncertainty estimates and superior performance over existing inference methods for GPs and Bayesian neural networks. With a Bayesian LSTM as the implicit prior, the proposed approach achieves state-of-the-art results on predicting power conversion efficiency of molecules based on raw chemical formulas.

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Numerous single-image super-resolution algorithms have been proposed in the literature, but few studies address the problem of performance evaluation based on visual perception. While most super-resolution images are evaluated by fullreference metrics, the effectiveness is not clear and the required ground-truth images are not always available in practice. To address these problems, we conduct human subject studies using a large set of super-resolution images and propose a no-reference metric learned from visual perceptual scores. Specifically, we design three types of low-level statistical features in both spatial and frequency domains to quantify super-resolved artifacts, and learn a two-stage regression model to predict the quality scores of super-resolution images without referring to ground-truth images. Extensive experimental results show that the proposed metric is effective and efficient to assess the quality of super-resolution images based on human perception.

* Accepted by Computer Vision and Image Understanding
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Biclustering structures in data matrices were first formalized in a seminal paper by John Hartigan (1972) where one seeks to cluster cases and variables simultaneously. Such structures are also prevalent in block modeling of networks. In this paper, we develop a unified theory for the estimation and completion of matrices with biclustering structures, where the data is a partially observed and noise contaminated data matrix with a certain biclustering structure. In particular, we show that a constrained least squares estimator achieves minimax rate-optimal performance in several of the most important scenarios. To this end, we derive unified high probability upper bounds for all sub-Gaussian data and also provide matching minimax lower bounds in both Gaussian and binary cases. Due to the close connection of graphon to stochastic block models, an immediate consequence of our general results is a minimax rate-optimal estimator for sparse graphons.

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In this paper, we propose to exploit the rich hierarchical features of deep convolutional neural networks to improve the accuracy and robustness of visual tracking. Deep neural networks trained on object recognition datasets consist of multiple convolutional layers. These layers encode target appearance with different levels of abstraction. For example, the outputs of the last convolutional layers encode the semantic information of targets and such representations are invariant to significant appearance variations. However, their spatial resolutions are too coarse to precisely localize the target. In contrast, features from earlier convolutional layers provide more precise localization but are less invariant to appearance changes. We interpret the hierarchical features of convolutional layers as a nonlinear counterpart of an image pyramid representation and explicitly exploit these multiple levels of abstraction to represent target objects. Specifically, we learn adaptive correlation filters on the outputs from each convolutional layer to encode the target appearance. We infer the maximum response of each layer to locate targets in a coarse-to-fine manner. To further handle the issues with scale estimation and re-detecting target objects from tracking failures caused by heavy occlusion or out-of-the-view movement, we conservatively learn another correlation filter, that maintains a long-term memory of target appearance, as a discriminative classifier. We apply the classifier to two types of object proposals: (1) proposals with a small step size and tightly around the estimated location for scale estimation; and (2) proposals with large step size and across the whole image for target re-detection. Extensive experimental results on large-scale benchmark datasets show that the proposed algorithm performs favorably against state-of-the-art tracking methods.

* To appear in T-PAMI 2018, project page at https://sites.google.com/site/chaoma99/hcft-tracking
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Object tracking is challenging as target objects often undergo drastic appearance changes over time. Recently, adaptive correlation filters have been successfully applied to object tracking. However, tracking algorithms relying on highly adaptive correlation filters are prone to drift due to noisy updates. Moreover, as these algorithms do not maintain long-term memory of target appearance, they cannot recover from tracking failures caused by heavy occlusion or target disappearance in the camera view. In this paper, we propose to learn multiple adaptive correlation filters with both long-term and short-term memory of target appearance for robust object tracking. First, we learn a kernelized correlation filter with an aggressive learning rate for locating target objects precisely. We take into account the appropriate size of surrounding context and the feature representations. Second, we learn a correlation filter over a feature pyramid centered at the estimated target position for predicting scale changes. Third, we learn a complementary correlation filter with a conservative learning rate to maintain long-term memory of target appearance. We use the output responses of this long-term filter to determine if tracking failure occurs. In the case of tracking failures, we apply an incrementally learned detector to recover the target position in a sliding window fashion. Extensive experimental results on large-scale benchmark datasets demonstrate that the proposed algorithm performs favorably against the state-of-the-art methods in terms of efficiency, accuracy, and robustness.

* IJCV 2018, Project page: https://sites.google.com/site/chaoma99/cf-lstm
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In this paper, we present Deep Extreme Feature Extraction (DEFE), a new ensemble MVA method for searching $\tau^{+}\tau^{-}$ channel of Higgs bosons in high energy physics. DEFE can be viewed as a deep ensemble learning scheme that trains a strongly diverse set of neural feature learners without explicitly encouraging diversity and penalizing correlations. This is achieved by adopting an implicit neural controller (not involved in feedforward compuation) that directly controls and distributes gradient flows from higher level deep prediction network. Such model-independent controller results in that every single local feature learned are used in the feature-to-output mapping stage, avoiding the blind averaging of features. DEFE makes the ensembles 'deep' in the sense that it allows deep post-process of these features that tries to learn to select and abstract the ensemble of neural feature learners. With the application of this model, a selection regions full of signal process can be obtained through the training of a miniature collision events set. In comparison of the Classic Deep Neural Network, DEFE shows a state-of-the-art performance: the error rate has decreased by about 37\%, the accuracy has broken through 90\% for the first time, along with the discovery significance has reached a standard deviation of 6.0 $\sigma$. Experimental data shows that, DEFE is able to train an ensemble of discriminative feature learners that boosts the overperformance of final prediction.

* 20 pages, 9 figures
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Correlation filters (CF) have received considerable attention in visual tracking because of their computational efficiency. Leveraging deep features via off-the-shelf CNN models (e.g., VGG), CF trackers achieve state-of-the-art performance while consuming a large number of computing resources. This limits deep CF trackers to be deployed to many mobile platforms on which only a single-core CPU is available. In this paper, we propose to jointly compress and transfer off-the-shelf CNN models within a knowledge distillation framework. We formulate a CNN model pretrained from the image classification task as a teacher network, and distill this teacher network into a lightweight student network as the feature extractor to speed up CF trackers. In the distillation process, we propose a fidelity loss to enable the student network to maintain the representation capability of the teacher network. Meanwhile, we design a tracking loss to adapt the objective of the student network from object recognition to visual tracking. The distillation process is performed offline on multiple layers and adaptively updates the student network using a background-aware online learning scheme. Extensive experiments on five challenging datasets demonstrate that the lightweight student network accelerates the speed of state-of-the-art deep CF trackers to real-time on a single-core CPU while maintaining almost the same tracking accuracy.

* 12 pages, 12 figures, submitted to IEEE Transactions on Image Processing
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Existing deep trackers mainly use convolutional neural networks pre-trained for generic object recognition task for representations. Despite demonstrated successes for numerous vision tasks, the contributions of using pre-trained deep features for visual tracking are not as significant as that for object recognition. The key issue is that in visual tracking the targets of interest can be arbitrary object class with arbitrary forms. As such, pre-trained deep features are less effective in modeling these targets of arbitrary forms for distinguishing them from the background. In this paper, we propose a novel scheme to learn target-aware features, which can better recognize the targets undergoing significant appearance variations than pre-trained deep features. To this end, we develop a regression loss and a ranking loss to guide the generation of target-active and scale-sensitive features. We identify the importance of each convolutional filter according to the back-propagated gradients and select the target-aware features based on activations for representing the targets. The target-aware features are integrated with a Siamese matching network for visual tracking. Extensive experimental results show that the proposed algorithm performs favorably against the state-of-the-art methods in terms of accuracy and speed.

* To appear in CVPR 2019
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We address the person re-identification problem by effectively exploiting a globally discriminative feature representation from a sequence of tracked human regions/patches. This is in contrast to previous person re-id works, which rely on either single frame based person to person patch matching, or graph based sequence to sequence matching. We show that a progressive/sequential fusion framework based on long short term memory (LSTM) network aggregates the frame-wise human region representation at each time stamp and yields a sequence level human feature representation. Since LSTM nodes can remember and propagate previously accumulated good features and forget newly input inferior ones, even with simple hand-crafted features, the proposed recurrent feature aggregation network (RFA-Net) is effective in generating highly discriminative sequence level human representations. Extensive experimental results on two person re-identification benchmarks demonstrate that the proposed method performs favorably against state-of-the-art person re-identification methods.

* 14 pages, 4 figures, in ECCV 2016
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Community detection is a central problem of network data analysis. Given a network, the goal of community detection is to partition the network nodes into a small number of clusters, which could often help reveal interesting structures. The present paper studies community detection in Degree-Corrected Block Models (DCBMs). We first derive asymptotic minimax risks of the problem for a misclassification proportion loss under appropriate conditions. The minimax risks are shown to depend on degree-correction parameters, community sizes, and average within and between community connectivities in an intuitive and interpretable way. In addition, we propose a polynomial time algorithm to adaptively perform consistent and even asymptotically optimal community detection in DCBMs.

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Community detection is a fundamental statistical problem in network data analysis. Many algorithms have been proposed to tackle this problem. Most of these algorithms are not guaranteed to achieve the statistical optimality of the problem, while procedures that achieve information theoretic limits for general parameter spaces are not computationally tractable. In this paper, we present a computationally feasible two-stage method that achieves optimal statistical performance in misclassification proportion for stochastic block model under weak regularity conditions. Our two-stage procedure consists of a generic refinement step that can take a wide range of weakly consistent community detection procedures as initializer, to which the refinement stage applies and outputs a community assignment achieving optimal misclassification proportion with high probability. The practical effectiveness of the new algorithm is demonstrated by competitive numerical results.

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Rain removal in images/videos is still an important task in computer vision field and attracting attentions of more and more people. Traditional methods always utilize some incomplete priors or filters (e.g. guided filter) to remove rain effect. Deep learning gives more probabilities to better solve this task. However, they remove rain either by evaluating background from rainy image directly or learning a rain residual first then subtracting the residual to obtain a clear background. No other models are used in deep learning based de-raining methods to remove rain and obtain other information about rainy scenes. In this paper, we utilize an extensively-used image degradation model which is derived from atmospheric scattering principles to model the formation of rainy images and try to learn the transmission, atmospheric light in rainy scenes and remove rain further. To reach this goal, we propose a robust evaluation method of global atmospheric light in a rainy scene. Instead of using the estimated atmospheric light directly to learn a network to calculate transmission, we utilize it as ground truth and design a simple but novel triangle-shaped network structure to learn atmospheric light for every rainy image, then fine-tune the network to obtain a better estimation of atmospheric light during the training of transmission network. Furthermore, more efficient ShuffleNet Units are utilized in transmission network to learn transmission map and the de-raining image is then obtained by the image degradation model. By subjective and objective comparisons, our method outperforms the selected state-of-the-art works.

* 10 pages, 9 figures, 3 tables
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