Variational Information Distillation for Knowledge Transfer

Sungsoo Ahn, Shell Xu Hu, Andreas Damianou, Neil D. Lawrence, Zhenwen Dai; The IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 2019, pp. 9163-9171


Transferring knowledge from a teacher neural network pretrained on the same or a similar task to a student neural network can significantly improve the performance of the student neural network. Existing knowledge transfer approaches match the activations or the corresponding hand-crafted features of the teacher and the student networks. We propose an information-theoretic framework for knowledge transfer which formulates knowledge transfer as maximizing the mutual information between the teacher and the student networks. We compare our method with existing knowledge transfer methods on both knowledge distillation and transfer learning tasks and show that our method consistently outperforms existing methods. We further demonstrate the strength of our method on knowledge transfer across heterogeneous network architectures by transferring knowledge from a convolutional neural network (CNN) to a multi-layer perceptron (MLP) on CIFAR-10. The resulting MLP significantly outperforms the-state-of-the-art methods and it achieves similar performance to the CNN with a single convolutional layer.

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[pdf] [supp]
author = {Ahn, Sungsoo and Hu, Shell Xu and Damianou, Andreas and Lawrence, Neil D. and Dai, Zhenwen},
title = {Variational Information Distillation for Knowledge Transfer},
booktitle = {The IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR)},
month = {June},
year = {2019}