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Ruixiang Zhang

PhD - Université de Montréal


Robust and Controllable Object-Centric Learning through Energy-based Models
Ruixiang ZHANG
Tong Che
Boris Ivanovic
Renhao Wang
Marco Pavone
Humans are remarkably good at understanding and reasoning about complex visual scenes. The capability of decomposing low-level observations … (see more)into discrete objects allows us to build a grounded abstract representation and identify the compositional structure of the world. Thus it is a crucial step for machine learning models to be capable of inferring objects and their properties from visual scene without explicit supervision. However, existing works on object-centric representation learning are either relying on tailor-made neural network modules or assuming sophisticated models of underlying generative and inference processes. In this work, we present EGO, a conceptually simple and general approach to learning object-centric representation through energy-based model. By forming a permutation-invariant energy function using vanilla attention blocks that are readily available in Transformers, we can infer object-centric latent variables via gradient-based MCMC methods where permutation equivariance is automatically guaranteed. We show that EGO can be easily integrated into existing architectures, and can effectively extract high-quality object-centric representations, leading to better segmentation accuracy and competitive downstream task performance. We empirically evaluate the robustness of the learned representation from EGO against distribution shift. Finally, we demonstrate the effectiveness of EGO in systematic compositional generalization, by recomposing learned energy functions for novel scene generation and manipulation.