beta-VAE: Learning Basic Visual Concepts with a Constrained Variational Framework

Learning an interpretable factorised representation of the independent data generative factors of the world without supervision is an important precursor for the development of artificial intelligence that is able to learn and reason in the same way that humans do. We introduce β-VAE, a new state-of-the-art framework for automated discovery of interpretable factorised latent representations from raw image data in a completely unsupervised manner. Our approach is a modification of the variational autoencoder (VAE) framework. We introduce an adjustable hyperparameter β that balances latent channel capacity and independence constraints with reconstruction accuracy. We demonstrate that β-VAE with appropriately tuned β > 1 qualitatively outperforms VAE (β = 1), as well as state of the art unsupervised (InfoGAN) and semi-supervised (DC-IGN) approaches to disentangled factor learning on a variety of datasets (celebA, faces and chairs). Furthermore, we devise a protocol to quantitatively compare the degree of disentanglement learnt by different models, and show that our approach also significantly outperforms all baselines quantitatively. Unlike InfoGAN, β-VAE is stable to train, makes few assumptions about the data and relies on tuning a single hyperparameter β, which can be directly optimised through a hyperparameter search using weakly labelled data or through heuristic visual inspection for purely unsupervised data.