Variational Diffusion Autoencoders with Random Walk Sampling

Henry Li, Ofir Lindenbaum, Xiuyuan Cheng, Alexander Cloninger ;


Variational autoencoders (VAEs) and generative adversarial networks (GANs) enjoy an intuitive connection to manifold learning: in training the decoder/generator is optimized to approximate a homeomorphism between the data distribution and the sampling space. This is a construction that strives to define the data manifold. A major obstacle to VAEs and GANs, however, is choosing a suitable prior that matches the data topology. Well-known consequences of poorly picked priors are posterior and mode collapse. To our knowledge, no existing method sidesteps this user choice. Conversely, extit{diffusion maps} automatically infer the data topology and enjoy a rigorous connection to manifold learning, but do not scale easily or provide the inverse homeomorphism (i.e. decoder/generator). We propose a method that combines these approaches into a generative model that inherits the asymptotic guarantees of extit{diffusion maps} while preserving the scalability of deep models. We prove approximation theoretic results for the dimension dependence of our proposed method. Finally, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our method with various real and synthetic datasets."

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