TL;DR: This paper proposes accurate and efficient optimizers on Stiefel manifold based on a new variational principle and its careful discretization.
Abstract: The problem of optimization on Stiefel manifold, i.e., minimizing functions of (not necessarily square) matrices that satisfy orthogonality constraints, has been extensively studied. Yet, a new approach is proposed based on, for the first time, an interplay between thoughtfully designed continuous and discrete dynamics. It leads to a gradient-based optimizer with intrinsically added momentum. This method exactly preserves the manifold structure but does not require additional operation to keep momentum in the changing (co)tangent space, and thus has low computational cost and pleasant accuracy. Its generalization to adaptive learning rates is also demonstrated. Notable performances are observed in practical tasks. For instance, we found that placing orthogonal constraints on attention heads of trained-from-scratch Vision Transformer (Dosovitskiy et al., 2020) could markedly improve its performance, when our optimizer is used, and it is better that each head is made orthogonal within itself but not necessarily to other heads. This optimizer also makes the useful notion of Projection Robust Wasserstein Distance (Paty and Cuturi, 2019; Lin et al., 2020) for high-dim. optimal transport even more effective.
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