On the Relevance of Sparsity for Image Classification

In this paper we analyze empirically the importance of sparsifying representations for classification purposes. We focus on those obtained by convolving images with linear filters, which can be either hand designed or learned, and perform extensive experiments on two important Computer Vision problems, image categorization and pixel classification. To this end, we adopt a simple modular architecture that encompasses many recently proposed models. The key outcome of our investigations is that enforcing sparsity constraints on features extracted in a convolutional architecture does not improve classification performance, whereas it does so when redundancy is artificially introduced. This is very relevant for practical purposes, since it implies that the expensive run-time optimization required to sparsify the representation is not always justified, and therefore that computational costs can be drastically reduced.

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