This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Understanding and Improving Computer Vision and Spatiotemporal Deep Neural Networks




Alcorn, Michael

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Computer Science and Software Engineering


Deep neural networks are increasingly being used to solve a wide range of machine learning tasks. In this dissertation, I discuss several research projects I have worked on at Auburn with the goal of understanding and improving deep learning architectures for image classification, multi-agent spatiotemporal modeling, and likelihood-based generative modeling. [1] Despite excellent performance on stationary test sets, deep neural networks (DNNs) can fail to generalize to out-of-distribution (OoD) inputs, including natural, non-adversarial ones, which are common in real-world settings. In the second chapter of this dissertation, we present a framework for discovering DNN failures that harnesses 3D renderers and 3D models. That is, we estimate the parameters of a 3D renderer that cause a target DNN to misbehave in response to the rendered image. Using our framework and a self-assembled dataset of 3D objects, we investigate the vulnerability of DNNs to OoD poses of well-known objects in ImageNet. For objects that are readily recognized by DNNs in their canonical poses, DNNs incorrectly classify 97% of their pose space. In addition, DNNs are highly sensitive to slight pose perturbations. Importantly, adversarial poses transfer across models and datasets. We find that 99.9% and 99.4% of the poses misclassified by Inception-v3 also transfer to the AlexNet and ResNet-50 image classifiers trained on the same ImageNet dataset, respectively, and 75.5% transfer to the YOLOv3 object detector trained on MS COCO. [2] In the third chapter of this dissertation, we show that the covariance matrix adaptation evolutionary strategy algorithm is much more effective than finite differences for discovering adversarial poses of objects, outperforming finite differences in 94% of trials. [3] Multi-agent spatiotemporal modeling is a challenging task from both an algorithmic design and computational complexity perspective. Recent work has explored the efficacy of traditional deep sequential models in this domain, but these architectures are slow and cumbersome to train, particularly as model size increases. Further, prior attempts to model interactions between agents across time have limitations, such as imposing an order on the agents, or making assumptions about their relationships. In the fourth chapter of this dissertation, we introduce baller2vec, a multi-entity generalization of the standard Transformer that can, with minimal assumptions, simultaneously and efficiently integrate information across entities and time. We test the effectiveness of baller2vec for multi-agent spatiotemporal modeling by training it to perform two different basketball-related tasks: (1) simultaneously forecasting the trajectories of all players on the court and (2) forecasting the trajectory of the ball. Not only does baller2vec learn to perform these tasks well (outperforming a graph recurrent neural network with a similar number of parameters by a wide margin), it also appears to “understand” the game of basketball, encoding idiosyncratic qualities of players in its embeddings, and performing basketball-relevant functions with its attention heads. [4] In many multi-agent spatiotemporal systems, the agents are under the influence of shared, unobserved variables (e.g., the play a team is executing in a game of basketball). As a result, the trajectories of the agents are often statistically dependent at any given time step; however, almost universally, multi-agent models implicitly assume the agents' trajectories are statistically independent at each time step. In the fifth chapter of this dissertation, we introduce baller2vec++, a multi-entity Transformer that can effectively model coordinated agents. Specifically, baller2vec++ applies a specially designed self-attention mask to a mixture of location and “look-ahead” trajectory sequences to learn the distributions of statistically dependent agent trajectories. We show that, unlike baller2vec, baller2vec++ can learn to emulate the behavior of perfectly coordinated agents in a simulated toy dataset. Additionally, when modeling the trajectories of professional basketball players, baller2vec++ outperforms baller2vec by a wide margin. [5] Order-agnostic autoregressive distribution (density) estimation (OADE), i.e., autoregressive distribution estimation where the features can occur in an arbitrary order, is a challenging problem in generative machine learning. Prior work on OADE has encoded feature identity by assigning each feature to a distinct fixed position in an input vector. As a result, architectures built for these inputs must strategically mask either the input or model weights to learn the various conditional distributions necessary for inferring the full joint distribution of the dataset in an order-agnostic way. In the sixth chapter of this dissertation, we propose an alternative approach for encoding feature identities, where each feature's identity is included alongside its value in the input. This feature identity encoding strategy allows neural architectures designed for sequential data to be applied to the OADE task without modification. As a proof of concept, we show that a Transformer trained on this input (which we refer to as “the DEformer”, i.e., the distribution estimating Transformer) can effectively model binarized-MNIST, approaching the performance of fixed-order autoregressive distribution estimating algorithms while still being entirely order-agnostic. Additionally, we find that the DEformer surpasses the performance of recent flow-based architectures when modeling a tabular dataset.