Multi-Facet Clustering Variational Autoencoders

Fabian Falck, Haoting Zhang, Matthew Willetts, George Nicholson, Christopher Yau, Christopher C Holmes

Work in deep clustering focuses on finding a single partition of data. However, high-dimensional data, such as images, typically feature multiple interesting characteristics one could cluster over. For example, images of objects against a background could be clustered over the shape of the object and separately by the colour of the background. In this paper, we introduce Multi-Facet Clustering Variational Autoencoders (MFCVAE), a novel class of variational autoencoders with a hierarchy of latent variables, each with a Mixture-of-Gaussians prior, that learns multiple clusterings simultaneously, and is trained fully unsupervised and end-to-end. MFCVAE uses a progressively-trained ladder architecture which leads to highly stable performance. We provide novel theoretical results for optimising the ELBO analytically with respect to the categorical variational posterior distribution, and corrects earlier influential theoretical work. On image benchmarks, we demonstrate that our approach separates out and clusters over different aspects of the data in a disentangled manner. We also show other advantages of our model: the compositionality of its latent space and that it provides controlled generation of samples.

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