Evolving Search Space for Neural Architecture Search

Yuanzheng Ci, Chen Lin, Ming Sun, Boyu Chen, Hongwen Zhang, Wanli Ouyang; Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2021, pp. 6659-6669


Automation of neural architecture design has been a coveted alternative to human experts. Various search methods have been proposed aiming to find the optimal architecture in the search space. One would expect the search results to improve when the search space grows larger since it would potentially contain more performant candidates. Surprisingly, we observe that enlarging search space is unbeneficial or even detrimental to existing NAS methods such as DARTS, ProxylessNAS, and SPOS. This counterintuitive phenomenon suggests that enabling existing methods to large search space regimes is non-trivial. However, this problem is less discussed in the literature. We present a Neural Search-space Evolution (NSE) scheme, the first neural architecture search scheme designed especially for large space neural architecture search problems. The necessity of a well-designed search space with constrained size is a tacit consent in existing methods, and our NSE aims at minimizing such necessity. Specifically, the NSE starts with a search space subset, then evolves the search space by repeating two steps: 1) search an optimized space from the search space subset, 2) refill this subset from a large pool of operations that are not traversed. We further extend the flexibility of obtainable architectures by introducing a learnable multi-branch setting. With the proposed method, we achieve 77.3% top-1 retrain accuracy on ImageNet with 333M FLOPs, which yielded a state-of-the-art performance among previous auto-generated architectures that do not involve knowledge distillation or weight pruning. When the latency constraint is adopted, our result also performs better than the previous best-performing mobile models with a 77.9% Top-1 retrain accuracy. Code is available at https://github.com/orashi/NSE_NAS.

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@InProceedings{Ci_2021_ICCV, author = {Ci, Yuanzheng and Lin, Chen and Sun, Ming and Chen, Boyu and Zhang, Hongwen and Ouyang, Wanli}, title = {Evolving Search Space for Neural Architecture Search}, booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV)}, month = {October}, year = {2021}, pages = {6659-6669} }