FlexAE: flexibly learning latent priors for wasserstein auto-encoders
Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, PMLR 161:525-535, 2021.
Auto-Encoder (AE) based neural generative frameworks model the joint-distribution between the data and the latent space using an Encoder-Decoder pair, with regularization imposed in terms of a prior over the latent space. Despite their advantages, such as stability in training, efficient inference, the performance of AE based models has not reached the superior standards of the other generative models such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). Motivated by this, we examine the effect of the latent prior on the generation quality of deterministic AE models in this paper. Specifically, we consider the class of Generative AE models with deterministic Encoder-Decoder pair (such as Wasserstein Auto-Encoder (WAE), Adversarial Auto-Encoder (AAE)), and show that having a fixed prior distribution, a priori, oblivious to the dimensionality of the ‘true’ latent space, will lead to the infeasibility of the optimization problem considered. As a remedy to the issue mentioned above, we introduce an additional state space in the form of flexibly learnable latent priors, in the optimization objective of WAE/AAE. Additionally, we employ a latent-space interpolation based smoothing scheme to address the non-smoothness that may arise from highly flexible priors. We show the efficacy of our proposed models, called FlexAE and FlexAE-SR, through several experiments on multiple datasets, and demonstrate that FlexAE-SR is the new state-of-the-art for the AE based generative models in terms of generation quality as measured by several metrics such as Fr\’echet Inception Distance, Precision/Recall score.