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Spatial Assembly Networks for Image Representation Learning
It has been long recognized that deep neural networks are sensitive to changes in spatial configurations or scene structures. Image augmentations, such as random translation, cropping, and resizing, can be used to improve the robustness of deep neural networks under spatial transforms. However, changes in object part configurations, spatial layout of object, and scene structures of the images may still result in major changes in the their feature representations generated by the network, creating significant challenges for various visual learning tasks, including representation or metric learning, image classification and retrieval. In this work, we introduce a new learnable module, called spatial assembly network (SAN), to address this important issue. This SAN module examines the input image and performs a learned re-organization and assembly of feature points from different spatial locations conditioned by feature maps from previous network layers so as to maximize the discriminative power of the final feature representation. This differentiable module can be flexibly incorporated into existing network architectures, improving their capabilities in handling spatial variations and structural changes of the image scene. We demonstrate that the proposed SAN module is able to significantly improve the performance of various metric / representation learning, image retrieval and classification tasks, in both supervised and unsupervised learning scenarios.