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Understanding and Simplifying Perceptual Distances
Perceptual metrics based on features of deep Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) have shown remarkable success when used as loss functions in a range of computer vision problems and significantly outperform classical losses such as L1 or L2 in pixel space. The source of this success remains somewhat mysterious, especially since a good loss does not require a particular CNN architecture nor a particular training method. In this paper we show that similar success can be achieved even with losses based on features of a deep CNN with random filters. We use the tool of infinite CNNs to derive an analytical form for perceptual similarity in such CNNs, and prove that the perceptual distance between two images is equivalent to the maximum mean discrepancy (MMD) distance between local distributions of small patches in the two images. We use this equivalence to propose a simple metric for comparing two images which directly computes the MMD between local distributions of patches in the two images. Our proposed metric is simple to understand, requires no deep networks, and gives comparable performance to perceptual metrics in a range of computer vision tasks.