Massive amount of data is generated everyday. Although supervised learning has been at the core of recent success of deep learning, unsupervised learning has the potential to scale with this ever increasing availability of data as it alleviates the need to carefully hand-craft and annotate training datasets.
Clustering is one of the fundamental unsupervised method of knowledge discovery. It’s goal is to group similar data points together without supervision or prior knowledge of nature of the clusters. Various aspects of clustering such as distance metrics, feature selection, grouping methods etc. have been extensively studied since the origin of cluster analysis in the 1930s. Because of it’s importance in exploratory understanding of data, clustering has always been an active field of research.
Galvanized by the widespread success of deep learning in both supervised and unsupervised problems, many of the recent work on clustering has been focused on using deep neural networks-often, this pairing is commonly referred to as deep clustering
Deep clustering algorithms can be broken down into three essential components: deep neural network, network loss, and clustering loss.
The deep neural network is the representation learning component of deep clustering algorithms. They are employed to learn low dimensional non-linear data representations from the dataset. Most widely used architectures are autoencoder based, however generative models like Variational Autoencoders
The objective function of deep clustering algorithms are generally a linear combination of unsupervised representation learning loss, here referred to as network loss and a clustering oriented loss . They are formulated as
where is a hyperparameter between 0 and 1 that balances the impact of two loss functions.
Network Loss
The neural network loss refer to the reconstruction loss of autoencoder, variational loss of VAEs, or the adversarial loss of GANs. The network loss is essential for the initialization of the deep neural networks. Usually after a few epochs, the clustering loss is introduced by changing the hyperparameter.
Some models like JULE
Clustering Loss
Several different clustering loss has been proposed and used in different algorithms. They can be generally categorized into:
Cluster Assignment
Cluster assignment losses provides cluster assignments to the data points directly, and no further clustering algorithm is required to be run on top the learnt data representations. Some examples are: k-means loss
Cluster Regularization
Cluster regularization loss, on the other hand, only enforces the network to preserve suitable discriminant information from the data in the representations. Further clustering on the representation space is necessary to obtain the clustering result. Some examples are: locality preserving loss, group sparsity loss
In deep clustering literature, we see the regular use of the following three evaluation metrics:
Unsupervised Clustering Accuracy (ACC)
ACC is the unsupervised equivalent of classification accuracy. ACC differs from the usual accuracy metric such that it uses a mapping function to find the best mapping between the cluster assignment output of the algorithm with the ground truth . This mapping is required because an unsupervised algorithm may use a different label than the actual ground truth label to represent the same cluster. A reference python implementation can be found here.
Normalized Mutual Information (NMI)
NMI is an information theoretic metric that measures the mutual information between the cluster assignments and the ground truth labels. It is normalized by the average of entropy of both ground labels and the cluster assignments. Sklearn’s implementation is available as sklearn.metrics.normalized_mutual_info_score
.
Adjusted Rand Index (ARI)
The Rand Index computes a similarity measure between two clusterings by considering all pairs of samples and counting pairs that are assigned in the same or different clusters in the predicted and true clusterings. The adjusted Rand index is the corrected-for-chance version of the Rand index. Sklearn’s implementation is available as sklearn.metrics.adjusted_rand_score
.
Based on the different network architectures and the nature of loss functions used, we can broadly categorize current deep clustering models into following three categories:
Autoencoders have found extensive use in unsupervised representation learning tasks ranging from denoising to neural machine translation. The simple yet very powerful framework is also used extensively in deep clustering algorithms.
Most of the AE based deep clustering approaches use a pre-training scheme in which the encoder and decoder network parameters are initialized with the reconstruction loss before clustering loss is introduced.
Deep Embedded Clustering (DEC) [paper] [code]
Deep Embedded Clustering
The training begins with a pre-training stage to initialize encoder and decoder parameters for a few epochs with reconstruction loss. After pre-training, it removes the decoder network and the encoder network is then fine-tuned by optimizing KL divergence between soft cluster assignment and auxilliary distribution . This training can be thought of as a self-training process to refine the representations while doing cluster assignment iteratively.
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
Discriminately Boosted Clustering (DBC) [paper]
Discriminately Boosted Clustering
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
Deep Clustering Network (DCN) [paper] [code]
Deep Clustering Network
where and are encoder and decoder functions respectively, is the assignment vector of data point which has only one non-zero element and , denotes the centroid of the th cluster.
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
Deep Embedded Regularized Clustering (DEPICT) [paper] [code]
Deep Embedded Regularized Clustering
DEPICT achieves very impressive clustering performance as a result of these improvements.
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
Generative models like Variational Autoencoders and Generative Adversarial Networks learn latent representation space that can be interpolated to generate new samples from the data distribution.
Variational Deep Embedding (VaDE) [paper] [code]
VaDE
After the optimization, the cluster assignments can be inferred directly from the MoG prior. One strong advantage of VaDE is that it stands on the strong theoretical ground of VAE.
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
Information Maximizing Generative Adversarial Network (InfoGAN) [paper] [code]
Another generative approach towards clustering is InfoGAN
The third category of deep clustering models discard any reconstruction loss and use clustering loss directly to optimize the deep neural network.
Joint Unsupervised Learning (JULE) [paper] [code]
Inspired by recurrent nature of agglomerative clustering, JULE
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
Deep Adaptive Image Clustering (DAC) [paper] [code]
Another approach in direct cluster optimization family, DAC
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
Information Maximizing Self-Augmented Training (IMSAT) [paper] [code]
IMSAT
It combines mutual information constraint along with SAT scheme to define objective function as:
Clustering Accuracy (ACC):
High Dimensionality
Many clustering algorithms suffer from the major drawback of curse of dimensionality. Most of the algorithms rely heavily on similarity measures based on distance functions. These measures work relatively well in low dimensional data, but as the dimensionality grows, they loose their discriminative power, severely affecting clustering quality
Deep clustering algorithms use deep neural networks to learn suitable low dimensional data representations which alleviates this problem to some extent. Even though classical algorithms like Spectral Clustering address this issue by incorporating dimensionality reduction in their design, neural networks have been very successful in producing suitable representations from data for a large range of tasks when provided with appropriate objective functions. Therefore, deep clustering algorithms shine for their ability to learn expressive yet low dimensional data representations suitable for clustering from complex high dimensional data.
End to End Framework
Deep clustering frameworks combine feature extraction, dimensionality reduction and clustering into an end to end model, allowing the deep neural networks to learn suitable representations to adapt to the assumptions and criteria of the clustering module that is used in the model. This alleviates the need to perform manifold learning or dimensionality reduction on large datasets separately, instead incorporating it into the model training.
Scalability
By incorporating deep neural networks, deep clustering algorithms can process large high dimensional datasets such as images and texts with a reasonable time complexity. The representation space learned are low dimensional spaces, allowing other clustering algorithms to efficiently cluster large real world datasets and infer cluster information in the real time after the initial training.
Hyper-parameters
Deep clustering models have several hyper-parameters which are not trivial to set. The major drawback of deep clustering arises from the fact that in clustering, which is an unsupervised task, we do not have the luxury of validation of performance on real data. We have to rely on benchmark datasets to evaluate the hyper-parameters and hope it translates to the real world, which seriously questions the plausibility of application of deep clustering models in the real world scenarios. This is even more worrying when we notice that all the models we discussed above generally perform very well on MNIST, but their performance may vary wildly on other datasets like Reuters.
Lack of interpretability
Although interpretability is big issue with neural networks in general, the lack of it is specially more significant in scenarios where validation is difficult. The representations learnt by deep neural networks are not easily interpretable and thus we have to place significant level of trust on results produced by the models. Therefore, deep clustering models with interpretable or disentangled representations should be developed which afford insight into what features do the representations capture and what attributes of data are the clusters based on.
Lack of theoritical framework
The majority of deep clustering algorithms we discussed above lack strong theoretical grounding. A model can be expressive and reliable without theoretical grounding, but it is often very difficult to predict their behaviour and performance in out of sample situations, which can pose a serious challenge in unsupervised setup such as clustering.
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