Harmonic Exponential Families on Manifolds


Taco Cohen, Max Welling ;
Proceedings of the 32nd International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 37:1757-1765, 2015.


In a range of fields including the geosciences, molecular biology, robotics and computer vision, one encounters problems that involve random variables on manifolds. Currently, there is a lack of flexible probabilistic models on manifolds that are fast and easy to train. We define an extremely flexible class of exponential family distributions on manifolds such as the torus, sphere, and rotation groups, and show that for these distributions the gradient of the log-likelihood can be computed efficiently using a non-commutative generalization of the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). We discuss applications to Bayesian camera motion estimation (where harmonic exponential families serve as conjugate priors), and modelling of the spatial distribution of earthquakes on the surface of the earth. Our experimental results show that harmonic densities yield a significantly higher likelihood than the best competing method, while being orders of magnitude faster to train.

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