Irina Higgins

Research Scientist

Early Visual Concept Learning with Unsupervised Deep Learning

Automated discovery of early visual concepts from raw image data is a major open challenge in AI research. Addressing this problem, we propose an unsupervised approach for learning disentangled representations of the underlying factors of variation. We draw inspiration from neuroscience, and show how this can be achieved in an unsupervised generative model by applying the same learning pressures as have been suggested to act in the ventral visual stream in the brain. By enforcing redundancy reduction, encouraging statistical independence, and exposure to data with transform continuities analogous to those to which human infants are exposed, we obtain a variational autoencoder (VAE) framework capable of learning disentangled factors. Our approach makes few assumptions and works well across a wide variety of datasets. Furthermore, our solution has useful emergent properties, such as zero-shot inference and an intuitive understanding of "objectness".

Irina Higgins is a Research Scientist at Google DeepMind, where she works in the Neuroscience team. Her work aims to bring together insights from the fields of machine learning and neuroscience to advance artificial intelligence. Before joining DeepMind, Irina was a British Psychological Society Undergraduate Award winner for her achievements as an undergraduate student in Experimental Psychology at Westminster University, followed by a DPhil at the Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence, where she focused on understanding the computational principles underlying speech processing in the auditory brain. During her DPhil, Irina also worked on developing poker AI, applying machine learning in the finance sector, and working on speech recognition at Google Research.



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