- Abstract: Neural Architecture Search (NAS) aims at automatically finding neural network architectures within an enormous designed search space. The search space usually contains billions of network architectures which causes extremely expensive computing costs in searching for the best-performing architecture. One-shot and gradient-based NAS approaches have recently shown to achieve superior results on various computer vision tasks such as image recognition. With the weight sharing mechanism, these methods lead to efficient model search. Despite their success, however, current sampling methods are either fixed or hand-crafted and thus ineffective. In this paper, we propose a learnable sampling module based on variational auto-encoder (VAE) for neural architecture search (NAS), named as VAENAS, which can be easily embedded into existing weight sharing NAS framework, e.g., one-shot approach and gradient-based approach, and significantly improve the performance of searching results. VAENAS generates a series of competitive results on CIFAR-10 and ImageNet in NasNet-like search space. Moreover, combined with one-shot approach, our method achieves a new state-of-the-art result for ImageNet classification model under 400M FLOPs with 77.4\% in ShuffleNet-like search space. Finally, we conduct a thorough analysis of VAENAS on NAS-bench-101 dataset, which demonstrates the effectiveness of our proposed methods.
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