Perturbative Neural Networks (PNN)

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Felix Juefei Xu

Vishnu Naresh Boddeti

Marios Savvides

Carnegie Mellon University and Michigan State University


PNN (PyTorch) on Github

Blog (coming soon)

Understanding Perturbative Neural Networks (PNN)


Convolutional neural networks are witnessing wide adoption in computer vision systems with numerous applications across a range of visual recognition tasks. Much of this progress is fueled through advances in convolutional neural network architectures and learning algorithms even as the basic premise of a convolutional layer has remained unchanged. In this paper, we seek to revisit the convolutional layer that has been the workhorse of state-of-the-art visual recognition models. We introduce a very simple, yet effective, module called a perturbation layer as an alternative to a convolutional layer. The perturbation layer does away with convolution in the traditional sense and instead computes its response as a weighted linear combination of non-linearly activated additive noise perturbed inputs. We demonstrate both analytically and empirically that this perturbation layer can be an effective replacement for a standard convolutional layer. Empirically, deep neural networks with perturbation layers, called Perturbative Neural Networks (PNNs), in lieu of convolutional layers perform comparably with standard CNNs on a range of visual datasets (MNIST, CIFAR-10, PASCAL VOC, and ImageNet) with fewer parameters.


In Local Binary Convolutional Neural Networks (LBCNN), CVPR'17, convolving with a binary filter is equivalent to addition and subtraction among neighbors within the patch. Similarly, convolving with a real-valued filter is equivalent to the linear combination of the neighbors using filter weights. Either way, the convolution is a linear function that transforms the center pixel x5 to a single pixel in the output feature map, by involving its neighbors. Can we arrive at a simpler mapping function?

Basic modules in CNN, LBCNN, and PNN. Wl and Vl are the learnable weights for local binary convolution layer and the proposed perturbation layer respectively. For PNN: (a) input, (b) fixed non-learnable perturbation masks, (c) response maps by addition with perturbation masks, (d) ReLU, (e) activated response maps, (f) learnable linear weights for combining the activated response maps, (g) feature map.

N^i is the i-th random additive perturbation mask. The linear weights V are the only learnable parameters of a perturbation layer.

Perturbation residual module.