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Self-Supervised Learning on 3D Point Clouds by Learning Discrete Generative Models
While recent pre-training tasks on 2D images have proven very successful for transfer learning, pre-training for 3D data remains challenging. In this work, we introduce a general method for 3D self-supervised representation learning that 1) remains agnostic to the underlying neural network architecture, and 2) specifically leverages the geometric nature of 3D point cloud data. The proposed task softly segments 3D points into a discrete number of geometric partitions. A self-supervised loss is formed under the interpretation that these soft partitions implicitly parameterize a latent Gaussian Mixture Model (GMM), and that this generative model establishes a data likelihood function. Our pretext task can therefore be viewed in terms of an encoder-decoder paradigm that squeezes learned representations through an implicitly defined parametric discrete generative model bottleneck. We show that any existing neural network architecture designed for supervised point cloud segmentation can be repurposed for the proposed unsupervised pretext task. By maximizing data likelihood with respect to the soft partitions formed by the unsupervised point-wise segmentation network, learned representations are encouraged to contain compositionally rich geometric information. In tests, we show that our method naturally induces semantic separation in feature space, resulting in state-of-the-art performance on downstream applications like model classification and semantic segmentation.