Why Convolutional Networks Learn Oriented Bandpass Filters: A Hypothesis

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Sep 25, 2019 ICLR 2020 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Keywords: convolutional networks, computer vision, oriented bandpass filters, linear systems theory
  • TL;DR: This paper offers a hypothesis for why convolutional networks learn oriented bandpass filters when applied to image understanding.
  • Abstract: It has been repeatedly observed that convolutional architectures when applied to image understanding tasks learn oriented bandpass filters. A standard explanation of this result is that these filters reflect the structure of the images that they have been exposed to during training: Natural images typically are locally composed of oriented contours at various scales and oriented bandpass filters are matched to such structure. The present paper offers an alternative explanation based not on the structure of images, but rather on the structure of convolutional architectures. In particular, complex exponentials are the eigenfunctions of convolution. These eigenfunctions are defined globally; however, convolutional architectures operate locally. To enforce locality, one can apply a windowing function to the eigenfunctions, which leads to oriented bandpass filters as the natural operators to be learned with convolutional architectures. From a representational point of view, these filters allow for a local systematic way to characterize and operate on an image or other signal.
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