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[First off, full credit that this summary is essentially a distilledformyownunderstanding compression of Yannic Kilcher's excellent video on the topic] I'm interested in learning more about Neural Radiance Fields (or NERFs), a recent technique for learning a representation of a scene that lets you generate multiple views from it, and a paper referenced as a useful prerequisite for that technique was SIRENs, or Sinuisodial Representation Networks. In my view, the most complex part of understanding this technique isn't the technique itself, but the particularities of the problem being solved, and the ways it differs from a more traditional ML setup. Typically, the goal of machine learning is to learn a model that extracts and represents properties of a data distribution, and that can generalize to new examples drawn from that distribution. Instead, in this framing, a single network is being used to capture information about a single image, essentially creating a compressed representation of that image that brings with it some nice additional properties. Concretely, the neural network is representing a function that maps inputs of the form (x, y), representing coordinates within the image, to (r, g, b) values, representing the pixel values of the image at that coordinate. If you're able to train an optimal version of such a network, it would mean you have a continuous representation of the image. A good way to think about "continuous," here, is that, you could theoretically ask the model for the color value at pixel (3.5, 2.5), and, given that it's simply a numerical mapping, it could give you a prediction, even though in your discrete "sampling" of pixels, that pixel never appears. Given this problem setting, the central technique proposed by SIRENs is to use sinusoidal nonlinearities between the layers. On the face of it, this may seem like a pretty weird choice: nonlinearities are generally monotonic, and a sine wave is absolutely not that. The appealing property of sinusoidal activations in this context is: if you take a derivative of a sine curve, what you get is a cosine curve (which is essentially a shifted sine curve), and the same is true in reverse. This means that you can take multiple derivatives of the learned function (where, again, "learned function" is your neural network optimized for this particular image), and have them still be networks of the same underlying format, with shifting constants. This allows SIRENs to use an enhanced version of what would be a typical training procedure for this setting. Simplistically, the way you'd go about training this kind of representation would be to simply give the inputs, and optimize against a loss function that reduced your prediction error in predicting the output values, or, in other words, the error on the f(x, y) function itself. When you have a model structure that makes it easy to take first and second derivatives of the function calculated by the model, you can, as this paper does, decide to train against a loss function of matching, not just the true f(x, y) function (again, the pixel values at coordinates), but also the first and secondderivatives (gradients and Laplacian) of the image at those coordinates. This supervision lets you learn a better underlying representation, since it enforces not just what comes "above the surface" at your sampled pixels, but the dynamics of the true function between those points. One interesting benefit of this procedure of using loss in a first or second derivative space (as pointed out in the paper), is that if you want to merge the interesting parts of multiple images, you can approximate that by training a SIREN on the sum of their gradients, since places where gradients are zero likely don't contain much contrast or interesting content (as an example: a constant color background). The Experiments section goes into a lot of specific applications in boundaryfinding problems, which I understand at less depth, and thus won't try to explain. It also briefly mentions trying to learn a prior over the space of image functions (that is, a prior over the set of network weights that define the underlying function of an image); having such a prior is interesting in that it would theoretically let you sample both the implicit image function itself (from the prior), and then also points within that function.
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