The ACL-IJCNLP 2021 paper entitled ‘Meta-Learning with Variational Semantic Memory for Word Sense Disambiguation‘ by Yingjun Du, Nithin Holla, Xiantong Zhen, Cees Snoek, Ekaterina Shutova is now available. A critical challenge faced by supervised word sense disambiguation (WSD) is the lack of large annotated datasets with sufficient coverage of words in their diversity of senses. This inspired recent research on few-shot WSD using meta-learning. While such work has successfully applied meta-learning to learn new word senses from very few examples, its performance still lags behind its fully-supervised counterpart. Aiming to further close this gap, we propose a model of semantic memory for WSD in a meta-learning setting. Semantic memory encapsulates prior experiences seen throughout the lifetime of the model, which aids better generalization in limited data settings. Our model is based on hierarchical variational inference and incorporates an adaptive memory update rule via a hypernetwork. We show our model advances the state of the art in few-shot WSD, supports effective learning in extremely data scarce (e.g. one-shot) scenarios and produces meaning prototypes that capture similar senses of distinct words.

The ICML 2021 paper “A Bit More Bayesian: Domain-Invariant Learning with Uncertaintyce” by Zehao Xiao, Jiayi Shen, Xiantong Zhen, Ling Shao and Cees Snoek is now available. Domain generalization is challenging due to the domain shift and the uncertainty caused by the inaccessibility of target domain data. In this paper, we address both challenges with a probabilistic framework based on variational Bayesian inference, by incorporating uncertainty into neural network weights. We couple domain invariance in a probabilistic formula with the variational Bayesian inference. This enables us to explore domain-invariant learning in a principled way. Specifically, we derive domain-invariant representations and classifiers, which are jointly established in a two-layer Bayesian neural network. We empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposal on four widely used cross-domain visual recognition benchmarks. Ablation studies validate the synergistic benefits of our Bayesian treatment when jointly learning domain-invariant representations and classifiers for domain generalization. Further, our method consistently delivers state-of-the-art mean accuracy on all benchmarks.

The CVPR 2021 cam-ready “Few-Shot Transformation of Common Actions into Time and Space” by Pengwan Yang, Pascal Mettes and Cees Snoek is now available. This paper introduces the task of few-shot common action localization in time and space. Given a few trimmed support videos containing the same but unknown action, we strive for spatio-temporal localization of that action in a long untrimmed query video. We do not require any class labels, interval bounds, or bounding boxes. To address this challenging task, we introduce a novel few-shot transformer architecture with a dedicated encoder-decoder structure optimized for joint commonality learning and localization prediction, without the need for proposals. Experiments on reorganizations of the AVA and UCF101-24 datasets show the effectiveness of our approach for few-shot common action localization, even when the support videos are noisy. Although we are not specifically designed for common localization in time only, we also compare favorably against the few-shot and one-shot state-of-the-art in this setting. Lastly, we demonstrate that the few-shot transformer is easily extended to common action localization per pixel.

The CVPR 2021 cam-ready “Repetitive Activity Counting by Sight and Sound” by Yunhua Zhang, Ling Shao and Cees Snoek is now available. This paper strives for repetitive activity counting in videos. Different from existing works, which all analyze the visual video content only, we incorporate for the first time the corresponding sound into the repetition counting process. This benefits accuracy in challenging vision conditions such as occlusion, dramatic camera view changes, low resolution, etc. We propose a model that starts with analyzing the sight and sound streams separately. Then an audiovisual temporal stride decision module and a reliability estimation module are introduced to exploit cross-modal temporal interaction. For learning and evaluation, an existing dataset is repurposed and reorganized to allow for repetition counting with sight and sound. We also introduce a variant of this dataset for repetition counting under challenging vision conditions. Experiments demonstrate the benefit of sound, as well as the other introduced modules, for repetition counting. Our sight-only model already outperforms the state-of-the-art by itself, when we add sound, results improve notably, especially under harsh vision conditions. The code and datasets are available at

The cam-ready of the ICLR 2021 paper “MetaNorm: Learning to Normalize Few-Shot Batches Across Domains” by Yingjun Du, Xiantong Zhen, Ling Shao and Cees Snoek is now available. Batch normalization plays a crucial role when training deep neural networks. However, batch statistics become unstable with small batch sizes and are unreliable in the presence of distribution shifts. We propose MetaNorm, a simple yet effective meta-learning normalization. It tackles the aforementioned issues in a unified way by leveraging the meta-learning setting and learns to infer adaptive statistics for batch normalization. MetaNorm is generic, flexible and model-agnostic, making it a simple plug-and-play module that is seamlessly embedded into existing meta-learning approaches. It can be efficiently implemented by lightweight hypernetworks with low computational cost. We verify its effectiveness by extensive evaluation on representative tasks suffering from the small batch and domain shift problems: few-shot learning and domain generalization. We further introduce an even more challenging setting: few-shot domain generalization. Results demonstrate that MetaNorm consistently achieves better, or at least competitive, accuracy compared to existing batch normalization methods.

The cam-ready of the ICLR 2021 paper “LiftPool: Bidirectional ConvNet Pooling” by Jiaojiao Zhao and Cees Snoek is now available. Pooling is a critical operation in convolutional neural networks for increasing receptive fields and improving robustness to input variations. Most existing pooling operations downsample the feature maps, which is a lossy process. Moreover, they are not invertible: upsampling a downscaled feature map can not recover the lost information in the downsampling. By adopting the philosophy of the classical Lifting Scheme from signal processing, we propose LiftPool for bidirectional pooling layers, including LiftDownPool and LiftUpPool. LiftDownPool decomposes a feature map into various downsized sub-bands, each of which contains information with different frequencies. As the pooling function in LiftDownPool is perfectly invertible, by performing LiftDownPool backwards, a corresponding up-pooling layer LiftUpPool is able to generate a refined upsampled feature map using the detail sub-bands, which is useful for image-to-image translation challenges. Experiments show the proposed methods achieve better results on image classification and semantic segmentation, using various backbones. Moreover, LiftDownPool offers better robustness to input corruptions and perturbations.

The cam-ready of the ICLR 2021 paper “Set Prediction without Imposing Structure as Conditional Density Estimation” by David Zhang, Gertjan Burghouts and Cees Snoek is now available. Set prediction is about learning to predict a collection of unordered variables with unknown interrelations. Training such models with set losses imposes the structure of a metric space over sets. We focus on stochastic and underdefined cases, where an incorrectly chosen loss function leads to implausible predictions. Example tasks include conditional point-cloud reconstruction and predicting future states of molecules. In this paper, we propose an alternative to training via set losses by viewing learning as conditional density estimation. Our learning framework fits deep energy-based models and approximates the intractable likelihood with gradient-guided sampling. Furthermore, we propose a stochastically augmented prediction algorithm that enables multiple predictions, reflecting the possible variations in the target set. We empirically demonstrate on a variety of datasets the capability to learn multi-modal densities and produce different plausible predictions. Our approach is competitive with previous set prediction models on standard benchmarks. More importantly, it extends the family of addressable tasks beyond those that have unambiguous predictions.

The NeurIPS 2020 paper Learning to Learn Variational Semantic Memory by Xiantong Zhen*, Yingjun Du*, Huan Xiong, Qiang Qiu, Cees G. M. Snoek, and Ling Shao is now available. In this paper, we introduce variational semantic memory into meta-learning to acquire long-term knowledge for few-shot learning. The variational semantic memory accrues and stores semantic information for the probabilistic inference of class prototypes in a hierarchical Bayesian framework. The semantic memory is grown from scratch and gradually consolidated by absorbing information from tasks it experiences. By doing so, it is able to accumulate long-term, general knowledge that enables it to learn new concepts of objects. We formulate memory recall as the variational inference of a latent memory variable from addressed contents, which offers a principled way to adapt the knowledge to individual tasks. Our variational semantic memory, as a new long-term memory module, confers principled recall and update mechanisms that enable semantic information to be efficiently accrued and adapted for few-shot learning. Experiments demonstrate that the probabilistic modelling of prototypes achieves a more informative representation of object classes compared to deterministic vectors. The consistent new state-of-the-art performance on four benchmarks shows the benefit of variational semantic memory in boosting few-shot recognition.

Graphical illustration of the proposed probabilistic prototype inference with variational semantic memory.