Tag Archives: Research

Stabilizing Live Speech Translation in Google Translate

The transcription feature in the Google Translate app may be used to create a live, translated transcription for events like meetings and speeches, or simply for a story at the dinner table in a language you don’t understand. In such settings, it is useful for the translated text to be displayed promptly to help keep the reader engaged and in the moment.

However, with early versions of this feature the translated text suffered from multiple real-time revisions, which can be distracting. This was because of the non-monotonic relationship between the source and the translated text, in which words at the end of the source sentence can influence words at the beginning of the translation.

Transcribe (old) — Left: Source transcript as it arrives from speech recognition. Right: Translation that is displayed to the user. The frequent corrections made to the translation interfere with the reading experience.

Today, we are excited to describe some of the technology behind a recently released update to the transcribe feature in the Google Translate app that significantly reduces translation revisions and improves the user experience. The research enabling this is presented in two papers. The first formulates an evaluation framework tailored to live translation and develops methods to reduce instability. The second demonstrates that these methods do very well compared to alternatives, while still retaining the simplicity of the original approach. The resulting model is much more stable and provides a noticeably improved reading experience within Google Translate.

Transcribe (new) — Left: Source transcript as it arrives from speech recognition. Right: Translation that is displayed to the user. At the cost of a small delay, the translation now rarely needs to be corrected.

Evaluating Live Translation
Before attempting to make any improvements, it was important to first understand and quantifiably measure the different aspects of the user experience, with the goal of maximizing quality while minimizing latency and instability. In “Re-translation Strategies For Long Form, Simultaneous, Spoken Language Translation”, we developed an evaluation framework for live-translation that has since guided our research and engineering efforts. This work presents a performance measure using the following metrics:

  • Erasure: Measures the additional reading burden on the user due to instability. It is the number of words that are erased and replaced for every word in the final translation.
  • Lag: Measures the average time that has passed between when a user utters a word and when the word’s translation displayed on the screen becomes stable. Requiring stability avoids rewarding systems that can only manage to be fast due to frequent corrections.
  • BLEU score: Measures the quality of the final translation. Quality differences in intermediate translations are captured by a combination of all metrics.

It is important to recognize the inherent trade-offs between these different aspects of quality. Transcribe enables live-translation by stacking machine translation on top of real-time automatic speech recognition. For each update to the recognized transcript, a fresh translation is generated in real time; several updates can occur each second. This approach placed Transcribe at one extreme of the 3 dimensional quality framework: it exhibited minimal lag and the best quality, but also had high erasure. Understanding this allowed us to work towards finding a better balance.

Stabilizing Re-translation
One straightforward solution to reduce erasure is to decrease the frequency with which translations are updated. Along this line, “streaming translation” models (for example, STACL and MILk) intelligently learn to recognize when sufficient source information has been received to extend the translation safely, so the translation never needs to be changed. In doing so, streaming translation models are able to achieve zero erasure.

The downside with such streaming translation models is that they once again take an extreme position: zero erasure necessitates sacrificing BLEU and lag. Rather than eliminating erasure altogether, a small budget for occasional instability may allow better BLEU and lag. More importantly, streaming translation would require retraining and maintenance of specialized models specifically for live-translation. This precludes the use of streaming translation in some cases, because keeping a lean pipeline is an important consideration for a product like Google Translate that supports 100+ languages.

In our second paper, “Re-translation versus Streaming for Simultaneous Translation”, we show that our original “re-translation” approach to live-translation can be fine-tuned to reduce erasure and achieve a more favorable erasure/lag/BLEU trade-off. Without training any specialized models, we applied a pair of inference-time heuristics to the original machine translation models — masking and biasing.

The end of an on-going translation tends to flicker because it is more likely to have dependencies on source words that have yet to arrive. We reduce this by truncating some number of words from the translation until the end of the source sentence has been observed. This masking process thus trades latency for stability, without affecting quality. This is very similar to delay-based strategies used in streaming methods such as Wait-k, but applied only during inference and not during training.

Neural machine translation often “see-saws” between equally good translations, causing unnecessary erasure. We improve stability by biasing the output towards what we have already shown the user. On top of reducing erasure, biasing also tends to reduce lag by stabilizing translations earlier. Biasing interacts nicely with masking, as masking words that are likely to be unstable also prevents the model from biasing toward them. However, this process does need to be tuned carefully, as a high bias, along with insufficient masking, may have a negative impact on quality.

The combination of masking and biasing, produces a re-translation system with high quality and low latency, while virtually eliminating erasure. The table below shows how the metrics react to the heuristics we introduced and how they compare to the other systems discussed above. The graph demonstrates that even with a very small erasure budget, re-translation surpasses zero-flicker streaming translation systems (MILk and Wait-k) trained specifically for live-translation.

System     BLEU     Lag (s)     Erasure
Re-translation (old)     20.4     4.1     2.1
+ Stabilization (new)     20.2     4.1     0.1
Evaluation of re-translation on IWSLT test 2018 Engish-German (TED talks) with and without the inference-time stabilization heuristics of masking and biasing. Stabilization drastically reduces erasure. Translation quality, measured in BLEU, is very slightly impacted due to biasing. Despite masking, the effective lag remains the same because the translation stabilizes sooner.
Comparison of re-translation with stabilization and specialized streaming models (Wait-k and MILk) on WMT 14 English-German. The BLEU-lag trade-off curve for re-translation is obtained via different combinations of bias and masking while maintaining an erasure budget of less than 2 words erased for every 10 generated. Re-translation offers better BLEU / lag trade-offs than streaming models which cannot make corrections and require specialized training for each trade-off point.

Conclusion
The solution outlined above returns a decent translation very quickly, while allowing it to be revised as more of the source sentence is spoken. The simple structure of re-translation enables the application of our best speech and translation models with minimal effort. However, reducing erasure is just one part of the story — we are also looking forward to improving the overall speech translation experience through new technology that can reduce lag when the translation is spoken, or that can enable better transcriptions when multiple people are speaking.

Acknowledgements
Thanks to Te I, Dirk Padfield, Pallavi Baljekar, Goerge Foster, Wolfgang Macherey, John Richardson, Kuang-Che Lee, Byran Lin, Jeff Pittman, Sami Iqram, Mengmeng Niu, Macduff Hughes, Chris Kau, Nathan Bain.

Source: Google AI Blog


Improving Indian Language Transliterations in Google Maps

Nearly 75% of India’s population — which possesses the second highest number of internet users in the world — interacts with the web primarily using Indian languages, rather than English. Over the next five years, that number is expected to rise to 90%. In order to make Google Maps as accessible as possible to the next billion users, it must allow people to use it in their preferred language, enabling them to explore anywhere in the world.

However, the names of most Indian places of interest (POIs) in Google Maps are not generally available in the native scripts of the languages of India. These names are often in English and may be combined with acronyms based on the Latin script, as well as Indian language words and names. Addressing such mixed-language representations requires a transliteration system that maps characters from one script to another, based on the source and target languages, while accounting for the phonetic properties of the words as well.

For example, consider a user in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, who is looking for a nearby hospital, KD Hospital. They issue the search query, કેડી હોસ્પિટલ, in the native script of Gujarati, the 6th most widely spoken language in India. Here, કેડી (“kay-dee”) is the sounding out of the acronym KD, and હોસ્પિટલ is “hospital”. In this search, Google Maps knows to look for hospitals, but it doesn't understand that કેડી is KD, hence it finds another hospital, CIMS. As a consequence of the relative sparsity of names available in the Gujarati script for places of interest (POIs) in India, instead of their desired result, the user is shown a result that is further away.


To address this challenge, we have built an ensemble of learned models to transliterate names of Latin script POIs into 10 languages prominent in India: Hindi, Bangla, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Odia. Using this ensemble, we have added names in these languages to millions of POIs in India, increasing the coverage nearly twenty-fold in some languages. This will immediately benefit millions of existing Indian users who don't speak English, enabling them to find doctors, hospitals, grocery stores, banks, bus stops, train stations and other essential services in their own language.

Transliteration vs. Transcription vs. Translation
Our goal was to design a system that will transliterate from a reference Latin script name into the scripts and orthographies native to the above-mentioned languages. For example, the Devanagari script is the native script for both Hindi and Marathi (the language native to Nagpur, Maharashtra). Transliterating the Latin script names for NIT Garden and Chandramani Garden, both POIs in Nagpur, results in एनआईटी गार्डन and चंद्रमणी गार्डन, respectively, depending on the specific language’s orthography in that script.

It is important to note that the transliterated POI names are not translations. Transliteration is only concerned with writing the same words in a different script, much like an English language newspaper might choose to write the name Горбачёв from the Cyrillic script as “Gorbachev” for their readers who do not read the Cyrillic script. For example, the second word in both of the transliterated POI names above is still pronounced “garden”, and the second word of the Gujarati example earlier is still “hospital” — they remain the English words “garden” and “hospital”, just written in the other script. Indeed, common English words are frequently used in POI names in India, even when written in the native script. How the name is written in these scripts is largely driven by its pronunciation; so एनआईटी from the acronym NIT is pronounced “en-aye-tee”, not as the English word “nit”. Knowing that NIT is a common acronym from the region is one piece of evidence that can be used when deriving the correct transliteration.

Note also that, while we use the term transliteration, following convention in the NLP community for mapping directly between writing systems, romanization in South Asian languages regardless of the script is generally pronunciation-driven, and hence one could call these methods transcription rather than transliteration. The task remains, however, mapping between scripts, since pronunciation is only relatively coarsely captured in the Latin script for these languages, and there remain many script-specific correspondences that must be accounted for. This, coupled with the lack of standard spelling in the Latin script and the resulting variability, is what makes the task challenging.

Transliteration Ensemble
We use an ensemble of models to automatically transliterate from the reference Latin script name (such as NIT Garden or Chandramani Garden) into the scripts and orthographies native to the above-mentioned languages. Candidate transliterations are derived from a pair of sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) models. One is a finite-state model for general text transliteration, trained in a manner similar to models used by Gboard on-device for transliteration keyboards. The other is a neural long short-term memory (LSTM) model trained, in part, on the publicly released Dakshina dataset. This dataset contains Latin and native script data drawn from Wikipedia in 12 South Asian languages, including all but one of the languages mentioned above, and permits training and evaluation of various transliteration methods. Because the two models have such different characteristics, together they produce a greater variety of transliteration candidates.

To deal with the tricky phenomena of acronyms (such as the “NIT” and “KD” examples above), we developed a specialized transliteration module that generates additional candidate transliterations for these cases.

For each native language script, the ensemble makes use of specialized romanization dictionaries of varying provenance that are tailored for place names, proper names, or common words. Examples of such romanization dictionaries are found in the Dakshina dataset.

Scoring in the Ensemble
The ensemble combines scores for the possible transliterations in a weighted mixture, the parameters of which are tuned specifically for POI name accuracy using small targeted development sets for such names.

For each native script token in candidate transliterations, the ensemble also weights the result according to its frequency in a very large sample of on-line text. Additional candidate scoring is based on a deterministic romanization approach derived from the ISO 15919 romanization standard, which maps each native script token to a unique Latin script string. This string allows the ensemble to track certain key correspondences when compared to the original Latin script token being transliterated, even though the ISO-derived mapping itself does not always perfectly correspond to how the given native script word is typically written in the Latin script.

In aggregate, these many moving parts provide substantially higher quality transliterations than possible for any of the individual methods alone.

Coverage
The following table provides the per-language quality and coverage improvements due to the ensemble over existing automatic transliterations of POI names. The coverage improvement measures the increase in items for which an automatic transliteration has been made available. Quality improvement measures the ratio of updated transliterations that were judged to be improvements versus those that were judged to be inferior to existing automatic transliterations.

  Coverage Quality
Language   Improvement    Improvement
Hindi 3.2x 1.8x
Bengali 19x 3.3x
Marathi 19x 2.9x
Telugu 3.9x 2.6x
Tamil 19x 3.6x
Gujarati 19x 2.5x
Kannada 24x 2.3x
Malayalam 24x 1.7x
Odia 960x *
Punjabi 24x *
* Unknown / No Baseline.

Conclusion
As with any machine learned system, the resulting automatic transliterations may contain a few errors or infelicities, but the large increase in coverage in these widely spoken languages marks a substantial expansion of the accessibility of information within Google Maps in India. Future work will include using the ensemble for transliteration of other classes of entities within Maps and its extension to other languages and scripts, including Perso-Arabic scripts, which are also commonly used in the region.

Acknowledgments
This work was a collaboration between the authors and Jacob Farner, Jonathan Herbert, Anna Katanova, Andre Lebedev, Chris Miles, Brian Roark, Anurag Sharma, Kevin Wang, Andy Wildenberg, and many others.

Source: Google AI Blog


RxR: A Multilingual Benchmark for Navigation Instruction Following

A core challenge in machine learning (ML) is to build agents that can navigate complex human environments in response to spoken or written commands. While today’s agents, including robots, can often navigate complicated environments, they cannot yet understand navigation goals expressed in natural language, such as, “Go past the brown double doors that are closed to your right and stand behind the chair at the head of the table.”

This challenge, referred to as vision-and-language navigation (VLN), demands a sophisticated understanding of spatial language. For example, the ability to identify the position “behind the chair at the head of the table requires finding the table, identifying which part of the table is considered to be the “head”, finding the chair closest to the head, identifying the area behind this chair and so on. While people can follow these instructions easily, these challenges cannot be easily solved with current ML-based methods, requiring systems that can better connect language to the physical world it describes.

To help spur progress in this area, we are excited to introduce Room-Across-Room (RxR), a new dataset for VLN. Described in “Room-Across-Room: Multilingual Vision-and-Language Navigation with Dense Spatiotemporal Grounding”, RxR is the first multilingual dataset for VLN, containing 126,069 human-annotated navigation instructions in three typologically diverse languages — English, Hindi and Telugu. Each instruction describes a path through a photorealistic simulator populated with indoor environments from the Matterport3D dataset, which includes 3D captures of homes, offices and public buildings. To track progress on VLN, we are also announcing the RxR Challenge, a competition that encourages the machine learning community to train and evaluate their own instruction following agents on RxR instructions.

Language Instruction
en-US Starting next to the long dining room table, turn so the table is to your right. Walk towards the glass double doors. When you reach the mat before the doors, turn immediately left and walk down the stairs. When you reach the bottom of the stairs, walk through the open doors to your left and continue through the art exhibit with the tub to your right hand side. Down the length of the table until you reach the small step at the end of the room before you reach the tub and stop.
  
hi-IN अभी हमारे बायीं ओर एक बड़ा मेज़ है कुछ कुर्सियाँ हैं और कुछ दीपक मेज़ के ऊपर रखे हैं। उलटी दिशा में घूम जाएँ और सिधा चलें। अभी हमारे दायीं ओर एक गोल मेज़ है वहां से सीधा बढ़ें और सामने एक शीशे का बंद दरवाज़ा है उससे पहले बायीं ओर एक सीढ़ी है उससे निचे उतरें। निचे उतरने के बाद दायीं ओर मुड़े और एक भूरे रंग के दरवाज़े से अंदर प्रवेश करें और सीधा चलें। अभी हमारे दायीं ओर एक बड़ा मेज़ है और दो कुर्सियां राखी हैं सीधा आगे बढ़ें। हमारे सामने एक पानी का कल है और सामने तीन कुर्सियां दिवार के पास रखी हैं यहीं पर ठहर जाएँ।
  
te-IN ఉన్న చోటు నుండి వెనకకు తిరిగి, నేరుగా వెళ్తే, మీ ముందర ఒక బల్ల ఉంటుంది. దాన్ని దాటుకొని ఎడమవైపుకి తిరిగితే, మీ ముందర మెట్లు ఉంటాయి. వాటిని పూర్తిగా దిగండి. ఇప్పుడు మీ ముందర రెండు తెరిచిన ద్వారాలు ఉంటాయి. ఎడమవైపు ఉన్న ద్వారం గుండా బయటకు వెళ్ళి, నేరుగా నడవండి. ఇప్పుడు మీ కుడివైపున పొడవైన బల్ల ఉంటుంది. దాన్ని దాటుకొని ముందరే ఉన్న మెట్ల వద్దకు వెళ్ళి ఆగండి.

Examples of English, Hindi and Telugu navigation instructions from the RxR dataset. Each navigation instruction describes the same path.

Pose Traces
In addition to navigation instructions and paths, RxR also includes a new, more detailed multimodal annotation called a pose trace. Inspired by the mouse traces captured in the Localized Narratives dataset, pose traces provide dense groundings between language, vision and movement in a rich 3D setting. To generate navigation instructions, we ask guide annotators to move along a path in the simulator while narrating the path based on the surroundings. The pose trace is a record of everything the guide sees along the path, time-aligned with the words in the navigation instructions. These traces are then paired with pose traces from follower annotators, who are tasked with following the intended path by listening to the guide’s audio, thereby validating the quality of the navigation instructions. Pose traces implicitly capture notions of landmark selection and visual saliency, and represent a play-by-play account of how to solve the navigation instruction generation task (for guides) and the navigation instruction following task (for followers).

Example English navigation instruction in the RxR dataset. Words in the instruction text (right) are color-coded to align with the pose trace (left) that illustrates the movements and visual percepts of the guide annotator as they move through the environment describing the path.
The same RxR example with words in the navigation instruction aligned to 360° images along the path. The parts of the scene the guide annotator observed are highlighted; parts of the scene ignored by the annotator are faded. Red and yellow boxes highlight some of the close alignments between the textual instructions and the annotator's visual cues. The red cross indicates the next direction the annotator moved.

Scale
In total, RxR contains almost 10 million words, making it around 10 times larger than existing datasets, such as R2R and Touchdown/Retouchdown. This is important because, in comparison to tasks based on static image and text data, language tasks that require learning through movement or interaction with an environment typically suffer from a lack of large-scale training data. RxR also addresses known biases in the construction of the paths that have arisen in other datasets, such as R2R in which all paths have similar lengths and take the shortest route to the goal. In contrast, the paths in RxR are on average longer and less predictable, making them more challenging to follow and encouraging models trained on the dataset to place greater emphasis on the role of language in the task. The size, scope and detail of RxR will expand the frontier for research on grounded language learning while reducing the dominance of high resource languages such as English.

Left: RxR is an order of magnitude larger than similar existing datasets. Right: Compared to R2R, the paths in RxR are typically longer and less predictable, making them more challenging to follow.

Baselines
To better characterize and understand the RxR dataset, we trained a variety of agents on RxR using our open source framework VALAN, and language representations from the multilingual BERT model. We found that results were improved by including follower annotations as well as guide annotations during training, and that independently trained monolingual agents outperformed a single multilingual agent.

Conceptually, evaluation of these agents is straightforward — did the agent follow the intended path? Empirically, we measure the similarity between the path taken by the VLN agent and the reference path using NDTW, a normalized measure of path fidelity that ranges between 100 (perfect correspondence) and 0 (completely wrong). The average score for the follower annotators across all three languages is 79.5, due to natural variation between similar paths. In contrast, the best model (a composite of three independently trained monolingual agents, one for each language) achieved an NDTW score on the RxR test set of 41.5. While this is much better than random (15.4), it remains far below human performance. Although advances in language modeling continue to rapidly erode the headroom for improvement in text-only language understanding benchmarks such as GLUE and SuperGLUE, benchmarks like RxR that connect language to the physical world offer substantial room for improvement.

Results for our multilingual and monolingual instruction following agents on the RxR test-standard split. While performance is much better than a random walk, there remains considerable headroom to reach human performance on this task.

Competition
To encourage further research in this area, we are launching the RxR Challenge, an ongoing competition for the machine learning community to develop computational agents that can follow natural language navigation instructions. To take part, participants upload the navigation paths taken by their agent in response to the provided RxR test instructions. In the most difficult setting (reported here and in the paper), all the test environments are previously unseen. However, we also allow for settings in which the agent is either trained in or explores the test environments in advance. For more details and the latest results please visit the challenge website.

PanGEA
We are also releasing the custom web-based annotation tool that we developed to collect the RxR dataset. The Panoramic Graph Environment Annotation toolkit (PanGEA), is a lightweight and customizable codebase for collecting speech and text annotations in panoramic graph environments, such as Matterport3D and StreetLearn. It includes speech recording and virtual pose tracking, as well as tooling to align the resulting pose trace with a manual transcript. For more details please visit the PanGEA github page.

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Roma Patel, Eugene Ie and Jason Baldridge for their contributions to this research. We would also like to thank all the annotators, Sneha Kudugunta for analyzing the Telugu annotations, and Igor Karpov, Ashwin Kakarla and Christina Liu for their tooling and annotation support for this project, Austin Waters and Su Wang for help with image features, and Daphne Luong for executive support for the data collection.

Source: Google AI Blog


ToTTo: A Controlled Table-to-Text Generation Dataset

In the last few years, research in natural language generation, used for tasks like text summarization, has made tremendous progress. Yet, despite achieving high levels of fluency, neural systems can still be prone to hallucination (i.e.generating text that is understandable, but not faithful to the source), which can prohibit these systems from being used in many applications that require high degrees of accuracy. Consider an example from the Wikibio dataset, where the neural baseline model tasked with summarizing a Wikipedia infobox entry for Belgian football player Constant Vanden Stock summarizes incorrectly that he is an American figure skater.

While the process of assessing the faithfulness of generated text to the source content can be challenging, it is often easier when the source content is structured (e.g., in tabular format). Moreover, structured data can also test a model’s ability for reasoning and numerical inference. However, existing large scale structured datasets are often noisy (i.e., the reference sentence cannot be fully inferred from the tabular data), making them unreliable for the measurement of hallucination in model development.

In “ToTTo: A Controlled Table-To-Text Generation Dataset”, we present an open domain table-to-text generation dataset created using a novel annotation process (via sentence revision) along with a controlled text generation task that can be used to assess model hallucination. ToTTo (shorthand for “Table-To-Text”) consists of 121,000 training examples, along with 7,500 examples each for development and test. Due to the accuracy of annotations, this dataset is suitable as a challenging benchmark for research in high precision text generation. The dataset and code are open-sourced on our GitHub repo.

Table-to-Text Generation
ToTTo introduces a controlled generation task in which a given Wikipedia table with a set of selected cells is used as the source material for the task of producing a single sentence description that summarizes the cell contents in the context of the table. The example below demonstrates some of the many challenges posed by the task, such as numerical reasoning, a large open-domain vocabulary, and varied table structure.

Example in the ToTTo dataset, where given the source table and set of highlighted cells (left), the goal is to generate a one sentence description, such as the “target sentence” (right). Note that generating the target sentence would require numerical inference (eleven NFL seasons) and understanding of the NFL domain.

Annotation Process
Designing an annotation process to obtain natural but also clean target sentences from tabular data is a significant challenge. Many datasets like Wikibio and RotoWire pair naturally occurring text heuristically with tables, a noisy process that makes it difficult to disentangle whether hallucination is primarily caused by data noise or model shortcomings. On the other hand, one can elicit annotators to write sentence targets from scratch, which are faithful to the table, but the resulting targets often lack variety in terms of structure and style.

In contrast, ToTTo is constructed using a novel data annotation strategy in which annotators revise existing Wikipedia sentences in stages. This results in target sentences that are clean, as well as natural, containing interesting and varied linguistic properties. The data collection and annotation process begins by collecting tables from Wikipedia, where a given table is paired with a summary sentence collected from the supporting page context according to heuristics, such as word overlap between the page text and the table and hyperlinks referencing tabular data. This summary sentence may contain information not supported by the table and may contain pronouns with antecedents found in the table only, not the sentence itself.

The annotator then highlights the cells in the table that support the sentence and deletes phrases in the sentence that are not supported by the table. They also decontextualize the sentence so that it is standalone (e.g., with correct pronoun resolution) and correct grammar, where necessary.

We show that annotators obtain high agreement on the above task: 0.856 Fleiss Kappa for cell highlighting, and 67.0 BLEU for the final target sentence.

Dataset Analysis
We conducted a topic analysis on the ToTTo dataset over 44 categories and found that the Sports and Countries topics, each of which consists of a range of fine-grained topics, e.g., football/olympics for sports and population/buildings for countries, together comprise 56.4% of the dataset. The other 44% is composed of a much more broad set of topics, including Performing Arts, Transportation, and Entertainment.

Furthermore, we conducted a manual analysis of the different types of linguistic phenomena in the dataset over 100 randomly chosen examples. The table below summarizes the fraction of examples that require reference to the page and section titles, as well as some of the linguistic phenomena in the dataset that potentially pose new challenges to current systems.

Linguistic Phenomena Percentage
Require reference to page title 82%
Require reference to section title 19%
Require reference to table description 3%
Reasoning (logical, numerical, temporal etc.) 21%
Comparison across rows/columns/cells 13%
Require background information 12%

Baseline Results
We present some baseline results of three state-of-the-art models from the literature (BERT-to-BERT, Pointer Generator, and the Puduppully 2019 model) on two evaluation metrics, BLEU and PARENT. In addition to reporting the score on the overall test set, we also evaluate each model on a more challenging subset consisting of out-of-domain examples. As the table below shows, the BERT-to-BERT model performs best in terms of both BLEU and PARENT. Moreover, all models achieve considerably lower performance on the challenge set indicating the challenge of out-of-domain generalization.

  BLEU PARENT BLEU PARENT
Model (overall) (overall) (challenge) (challenge)
BERT-to-BERT 43.9 52.6 34.8 46.7
Pointer Generator 41.6 51.6 32.2 45.2
Puduppully et al. 2019 19.2 29.2 13.9 25.8

While automatic metrics can give some indication of performance, they are not currently sufficient for evaluating hallucination in text generation systems. To better understand hallucination, we manually evaluate the top performing baseline, to determine how faithful it is to the content in the source table, under the assumption that discrepancies indicate hallucination. To compute the “Expert” performance, for each example in our multi-reference test set, we held out one reference and asked annotators to compare it with the other references for faithfulness. As the results show, the top performing baseline appears to hallucinate information ~20% of the time.

  Faithfulness Faithfulness
Model (overall) (challenge)
Expert 93.6 91.4
BERT-to-BERT  76.2 74.2

Model Errors and Challenges
In the table below, we present a selection of the observed model errors to highlight some of the more challenging aspects of the ToTTo dataset. We find that state-of-the-art models struggle with hallucination, numerical reasoning, and rare topics, even when using cleaned references (errors in red). The last example shows that even when the model output is correct it is sometimes not as informative as the original reference which contains more reasoning about the table (shown in blue).

Reference Model Prediction
in the 1939 currie cup, western province lost to transvaal by 17–6 in cape town. the first currie cup was played in 1939 in transvaal1 at new- lands, with western province winning 17–6.
a second generation of micro- drive was announced by ibm in 2000 with increased capacities at 512 mb and 1 gb. there were 512 microdrive models in 2000: 1 gigabyte.
the 1956 grand prix motorcy- cle racing season consisted of six grand prix races in five classes: 500cc, 350cc, 250cc, 125cc and sidecars 500cc. the 1956 grand prix motorcycle racing season consisted of eight grand prix races in five classes: 500cc, 350cc, 250cc, 125cc and sidecars 500cc.
in travis kelce’s last collegiate season, he set personal career highs in receptions (45), re- ceiving yards (722), yards per receptions (16.0) and receiving touchdowns (8). travis kelce finished the 2012 season with 45 receptions for 722 yards (16.0 avg.) and eight touchdowns.

Conclusion
In this work, we presented ToTTo, a large, English table-to-text dataset that presents both a controlled generation task and a data annotation process based on iterative sentence revision. We also provided several state-of-the-art baselines, and demonstrated ToTTo could be a useful dataset for modeling research as well as for developing evaluation metrics that can better detect model improvements.

In addition to the proposed task, we hope our dataset can also be helpful for other tasks such as table understanding and sentence revision. ToTTo is available at our GitHub repo.

Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank Ming-Wei Chang, Jonathan H. Clark, Kenton Lee, and Jennimaria Palomaki for their insightful discussions and support. Many thanks also to Ashwin Kakarla and his team for help with the annotations.

Source: Google AI Blog


Recognizing Pose Similarity in Images and Videos

Everyday actions, such as jogging, reading a book, pouring water, or playing sports, can be viewed as a sequence of poses, consisting of the position and orientation of a person’s body. An understanding of poses from images and videos is a crucial step for enabling a range of applications, including augmented reality display, full-body gesture control, and physical exercise quantification. However, a 3-dimensional pose captured in two dimensions in images and videos appears different depending on the viewpoint of the camera. The ability to recognize similarity in 3D pose using only 2D information will help vision systems better understand the world.

In “View-Invariant Probabilistic Embedding for Human Pose” (Pr-VIPE), a spotlight paper at ECCV 2020, we present a new algorithm for human pose perception that recognizes similarity in human body poses across different camera views by mapping 2D body pose keypoints to a view-invariant embedding space. This ability enables tasks, such as pose retrieval, action recognition, action video synchronization, and more. Compared to existing models that directly map 2D pose keypoints to 3D pose keypoints, the Pr-VIPE embedding space is (1) view-invariant, (2) probabilistic in order to capture 2D input ambiguity, and (3) does not require camera parameters during training or inference. Trained with in-lab setting data, the model works on in-the-wild images out of the box, given a reasonably good 2D pose estimator (e.g., PersonLab, BlazePose, among others). The model is simple, results in compact embeddings, and can be trained (in ~1 day) using 15 CPUs. We have released the code on our GitHub repo.

Pr-VIPE can be directly applied to align videos from different views.

Pr-VIPE
The input to Pr-VIPE is a set of 2D keypoints, from any 2D pose estimator that produces a minimum of 13 body keypoints, and the output is the mean and variance of the pose embedding. The distances between embeddings of 2D poses correlate to their similarities in absolute 3D pose space. Our approach is based on two observations:

  • The same 3D pose may appear very different in 2D as the viewpoint changes.
  • The same 2D pose can be projected from different 3D poses.

The first observation motivates the need for view-invariance. To accomplish this, we define the matching probability, i.e., the likelihood that different 2D poses were projected from the same, or similar 3D poses. The matching probability predicted by Pr-VIPE for matching pose pairs should be higher than for non-matching pairs.

To address the second observation, Pr-VIPE utilizes a probabilistic embedding formulation. Because many 3D poses can project to the same or similar 2D poses, the model input exhibits an inherent ambiguity that is difficult to capture through deterministic mapping point-to-point in embedding space. Therefore, we map a 2D pose through a probabilistic mapping to an embedding distribution, of which we use the variance to represent the uncertainty of the input 2D pose. As an example, in the figure below the third 2D view of the 3D pose on the left is similar to the first 2D view of a different 3D pose on the right, so we map them into a similar location in the embedding space with large variances.

Pr-VIPE enables vision systems to recognize 2D poses across views. We embed 2D poses using Pr-VIPE such that the embeddings are (1) view-invariant (2D projections of similar 3D poses are embedded close together) and (2) probabilistic. By embedding detected 2D poses, Pr-VIPE enables direct retrieval of pose images from different views, and can also be applied to action recognition and video alignment.
View-Invariance
During training, we use 2D poses from two sources: multi-view images and projections of groundtruth 3D poses. Triplets of 2D poses (anchor, positive, and negative) are selected from a batch, where the anchor and positive are two different projections of the same 3D pose, and the negative is a projection of a non-matching 3D pose. Pr-VIPE then estimates the matching probability of 2D pose pairs from their embeddings.
During training, we push the matching probability of positive pairs to be close to 1 with a positive pairwise loss in which we minimize the embedding distance between positive pairs, and the matching probability of negative pairs to be small by maximizing the ratio of the matching probabilities between positive and negative pairs with a triplet ratio loss.
Overview of the Pr-VIPE model. During training, we apply three losses (triplet ratio loss, positive pairwise loss, and a prior loss that applies a unit Gaussian prior to our embeddings). During inference, the model maps an input 2D pose to a probabilistic, view-invariant embedding.
Probabilistic Embedding
Pr-VIPE maps a 2D pose to a probabilistic embedding as a multivariate Gaussian distribution using a sampling-based approach for similarity score computation between two distributions. During training, we use a Gaussian prior loss to regularize the predicted distribution.

Evaluation
We propose a new cross-view pose retrieval benchmark to evaluate the view-invariance property of the embedding. Given a monocular pose image, cross-view retrieval aims to retrieve the same pose from different views without using camera parameters. The results demonstrate that Pr-VIPE retrieves poses more accurately across views compared to baseline methods in both evaluated datasets (Human3.6M, MPI-INF-3DHP).

Pr-VIPE retrieves poses across different views more accurately relative to the baseline method (3D pose estimation).

Common 3D pose estimation methods (such as the simple baseline used for comparison above, SemGCN, and EpipolarPose, amongst many others), predict 3D poses in camera coordinates, which are not directly view-invariant. Thus, rigid alignment between every query-index pair is required for retrieval using estimated 3D poses, which is computationally expensive due to the need for singular value decomposition (SVD). In contrast, Pr-VIPE embeddings can be directly used for distance computation in Euclidean space, without any post-processing.

Applications
View-invariant pose embedding can be applied to many image and video related tasks. Below, we show Pr-VIPE applied to cross-view retrieval on in-the-wild images without using camera parameters.


We can retrieve in-the-wild images from different views without using camera parameters by embedding the detected 2D pose using Pr-VIPE. Using the query image (top row), we search for a matching pose from a different camera view and we show the nearest neighbor retrieval (bottom row). This enables us to search for matching poses across camera views more easily.

The same Pr-VIPE model can also be used for video alignment. To do so, we stack Pr-VIPE embeddings within a small time window, and use the dynamic time warping (DTW) algorithm to align video pairs.

Manual video alignment is difficult and time-consuming. Here, Pr-VIPE is applied to automatically align videos of the same action repeated from different views.

The video alignment distance calculated via DTW can then be used for action recognition by classifying videos using nearest neighbor search. We evaluate the Pr-VIPE embedding using the Penn Action dataset and demonstrate that using the Pr-VIPE embedding without fine-tuning on the target dataset, yields highly competitive recognition accuracy. In addition, we show that Pr-VIPE even achieves relatively accurate results using only videos from a single view in the index set.

Pr-VIPE recognizes action across views using pose inputs only, and is comparable to or better than methods using pose only or with additional context information (such as Iqbal et al., Liu and Yuan, Luvizon et al., and Du et al.). When action labels are only available for videos from a single view, Pr-VIPE (1-view only) can still achieve relatively accurate results.

Conclusion
We introduce the Pr-VIPE model for mapping 2D human poses to a view-invariant probabilistic embedding space, and show that the learned embeddings can be directly used for pose retrieval, action recognition, and video alignment. Our cross-view retrieval benchmark can be used to test the view-invariant property of other embeddings. We look forward to hearing about what you can do with pose embeddings!

Acknowledgments
Special thanks to Jiaping Zhao, Liang-Chieh Chen, Long Zhao (Rutgers University), Liangzhe Yuan, Yuxiao Wang, Florian Schroff, Hartwig Adam, and the Mobile Vision team for the wonderful collaboration and support.

Source: Google AI Blog


Google Research: Looking Back at 2020, and Forward to 2021

When I joined Google over 20 years ago, we were just figuring out how to really start on the journey of making a high quality and comprehensive search service for information on the web, using lots of curiously wired computers. Fast forward to today, and while we’re taking on a much broader array of technical challenges, it’s still with the same overarching goal of organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful. In 2020, as the world has been reshaped by COVID-19, we saw the ways research-developed technologies could help billions of people better communicate, understand the world, and get things done. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and excited about new possibilities on the horizon.

The goal of Google Research is to work on long-term, ambitious problems across a wide range of important topics — from predicting the spread of COVID-19, to designing algorithms, to learning to translate more and more languages automatically, to mitigating bias in ML models. In the spirit of our annual reviews for 2019, 2018, and more narrowly focused reviews of some work in 2017 and 2016, this post covers key Google Research highlights from this unusual year. This is a long post, but grouped into many different sections. Hopefully, there’s something interesting in here for everyone! For a more comprehensive look, please see our >750 research publications in 2020.

COVID-19 and Health
As the impact of COVID-19 took a tremendous toll on people’s lives, researchers and developers around the world rallied together to develop tools and technologies to help public health officials and policymakers understand and respond to the pandemic. Apple and Google partnered in 2020 to develop the Exposure Notifications System (ENS), a Bluetooth-enabled privacy-preserving technology that allows people to be notified if they have been exposed to others who have tested positive for COVID-19. ENS supplements traditional contact tracing efforts and has been deployed by public health authorities in more than 50 countries, states and regions to help curb the spread of infection.

In the early days of the pandemic, public health officials signalled their need for more comprehensive data to combat the virus’ rapid spread. Our Community Mobility Reports, which provide anonymized insights into movement trends, are helping researchers not only understand the impact of policies like stay-at-home directives and social distancing, and also conduct economic forecasting.

Community Mobility Reports: Navigate and download a report for regions of interest.

Our own researchers have also explored using this anonymized data to forecast COVID-19 spread using graph neural networks instead of traditional time series-based models.

Although the research community knew little about this disease and secondary effects initially, we’re learning more every day. Our COVID-19 Search Trends symptoms allows researchers to explore temporal or symptomatic associations, such as anosmia — the loss of smell that is sometimes a symptom of the virus. To further support the broader research community, we launched Google Health Studies app to provide the public ways to participate in research studies.

Our COVID-19 Search Trends are helping researchers study the link between the disease’s spread and symptom-related searches.

Teams across Google are contributing tools and resources to the broader scientific community, which is working to address the health and economic impacts of the virus.

A spatio-temporal graph for modelling COVID-19 Spread.

Accurate information is critical in dealing with public health threats. We collaborated with many product teams at Google in order to improve information quality about COVID-19 in Google News and Search through supporting fact checking efforts, as well as similar efforts in YouTube.

We helped multilingual communities get equal access to critical COVID-19 information by sponsoring localization of Nextstrain.org’s weekly Situation Reports and developing a COVID-19 open source parallel dataset in collaboration with Translators Without Borders.

Modelling a complex global event is particularly challenging and requires more comprehensive epidemiological datasets, the development of novel interpretable models and agent-based simulators to inform the public health response. Machine learning techniques have also helped in other ways from deploying natural language understanding to helping researchers quickly navigate the mountains of COVID-19 scientific literature, applying anonymization technology to protect privacy while making useful datasets available, and exploring whether public health can conduct faster screening with fewer tests via Bayesian group testing.

These are only a sample of the many pieces of work that happened across Google to help users and public health authorities respond to COVID-19. For more, see using technology to help take on COVID-19.

Research in Machine Learning for Medical Diagnostics
We continue to make headway helping clinicians harness the power of ML to deliver better care for more patients. This year we have described notable advances in applying computer vision to aid doctors in the diagnosis and management of cancer, including helping to make sure that doctors don’t miss potentially cancerous polyps during colonoscopies, and showing that an ML system can achieve substantially higher accuracy than pathologists in Gleason grading of prostate tissue, enabling radiologists to achieve significant reductions in both false negative and false positive results when examining X-rays for signs of breast cancer.

To determine the aggressiveness of prostate cancers, pathologists examine a biopsy and assign it a Gleason grade. In published research, our system was able to grade with higher accuracy than a cohort of pathologists who have not had specialist training in prostate cancer. The first stage of the deep learning system assigns a Gleason grade to every region in a biopsy. In this biopsy, green indicates Gleason pattern 3, while yellow indicates Gleason pattern 4.

We’ve also been working on systems to help identify skin disease, help detect age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and U.K., and the third-largest cause of blindness worldwide), and on potential novel non-invasive diagnostics (e.g., being able to detect signs of anemia from retinal images).

Our study examines how a deep learning model can quantify hemoglobin levels — a measure doctors use to detect anemia — from retinal images.

This year has also brought exciting demonstrations of how these same technologies can peer into the human genome. Google’s open-source tool, DeepVariant, identifies genomic variants in sequencing data using a convolutional neural network, and this year won the FDA Challenge for best accuracy in 3 out of 4 categories. Using this same tool, a study led by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute improved diagnostic yield by 14% for genetic variants that lead to prostate cancer and melanoma in a cohort of 2,367 cancer patients.

Research doesn’t end at measurement of experimental accuracy. Ultimately, truly helping patients receive better care requires understanding how ML tools will affect people in the real world. This year we began work with Mayo Clinic to develop a machine learning system to assist in radiotherapy planning and to better understand how this technology could be deployed into clinical practice. With our partners in Thailand, we’ve used diabetic eye disease screening as a test case in how we can build systems with people at the center, and recognize the fundamental role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in building tools for a healthier world.

Weather, Environment and Climate Change
Machine learning can help us better understand the environment and make useful predictions to help people in both their everyday life as well as in disaster situations. For weather and precipitation forecasting, computationally intensive physics-based models like NOAA’s HRRR have long reigned supreme. We have been able to show, though, that ML-based forecasting systems can predict current precipitation with much better spatial resolution (“Is it raining in my local park in Seattle?” and not just “Is it raining in Seattle?”) and can produce short-term forecasts of up to eight hours that are considerably more accurate than HRRR, and can compute the forecast more quickly, yet with higher temporal and spatial resolution.

A visualization of predictions made over the course of roughly one day. Left: The 1-hour HRRR prediction made at the top of each hour, the limit to how often HRRR provides predictions. Center: The ground truth, i.e., what we are trying to predict. Right: The predictions made by our model. Our predictions are every 2 minutes (displayed here every 15 minutes) at roughly 10 times the spatial resolution made by HRRR. Notice that we capture the general motion and general shape of the storm.

We’ve also developed an improved technique called HydroNets, which uses a network of neural networks to model the actual river systems in the world to more accurately understand the interactions of upstream water levels to downstream inundation, resulting in more accurate water-level predictions and flood forecasting. Using these techniques, we've expanded our coverage of flood alerts by 20x in India and Bangladesh, helping to better protect more than 200 million people in 250,000 square kilometers.

An illustration of the HydroNets architecture.

Better analysis of satellite imagery data can also give Google users a better understanding of the impact and extent of wildfires (which caused devastating effects in California and Australia this year). We showed that automated analysis of satellite imagery can help with rapid assessment of damage after natural disasters even with limited prior satellite imagery. It can also aid urban tree-planting efforts by helping cities assess their current tree canopy coverage and where they should focus on planting new trees. We’ve also shown how machine learning techniques that leverage temporal context can help improve ecological and wildlife monitoring.

Based on this work, we’re excited to partner with NOAA on using AI and ML to amplify NOAA’s environmental monitoring, weather forecasting and climate research using Google Cloud’s infrastructure.

Accessibility
Machine learning continues to provide amazing opportunities for improving accessibility, because it can learn to transfer one kind of sensory input into others. As one example, we released Lookout, an Android application that can help visually impaired users by identifying packaged foods, both in a grocery store and also in their kitchen cupboard at home. The machine learning system behind Lookout demonstrates that a powerful-but-compact machine learning model can accomplish this in real-time on a phone for nearly 2 million products.


Similarly, people who communicate with sign language find it difficult to use video conferencing systems because even if they are signing, they are not detected as actively speaking by audio-based speaker detection systems. Developing Real-Time, Automatic Sign Language Detection for Video Conferencing presents a real-time sign language detection model and demonstrates how it can be used to provide video conferencing systems with a mechanism to identify the person signing as the active speaker.

We also enabled useful Android accessibility capabilities such as Voice Access and Sound Notifications for important household sounds.

Live Caption was expanded to support calls on the Pixel phone with the ability to caption phone calls and video calls. This came out of the Live Relay research project, which enables deaf and hard of hearing people to make calls without assistance.

Applications of ML to Other Fields
Machine learning continues to prove vital in helping us make progress across many fields of science. In 2020, in collaboration with the FlyEM team at HHMI Janelia Research Campus, we released the drosophila hemibrain connectome, the large synapse-resolution map of brain connectivity, reconstructed using large-scale machine learning models applied to high-resolution electron microscope imaging of brain tissue. This connectome information will aid neuroscientists in a wide variety of inquiries, helping us all better understand how brains function. Be sure to check out the very fly interactive 3-D UI!

The application of ML to problems in systems biology is also on the rise. Our Google Accelerated Science team, in collaboration with our colleagues at Calico, have been applying machine learning to yeast, to get a better understanding of how genes work together as a whole system. We’ve also been exploring how to use model-based reinforcement learning in order to design biological sequences like DNA or proteins that have desirable properties for medical or industrial uses. Model-based RL is used to improve sample efficiency. At each round of experimentation the policy is trained offline using a simulator fit on functional measurements from prior rounds. On various tasks like designing DNA transcription factor binding sites, designing antimicrobial proteins, and optimizing the energy of Ising models based on protein structures, we find that model-based RL is an attractive alternative to existing methods.

In partnership with X-Chem Pharmaceuticals and ZebiAI, we have also been developing ML techniques to do “virtual screening” of promising molecular compounds computationally. Previous work in this area has tended to focus on relatively small sets of related compounds, but in this work, we are trying to use DNA-encoded small molecule libraries in order to be able to generalize to find “hits” across a wide swath of chemical space, reducing the need for slower, physical-based lab work in order to progress from idea to working pharmaceutical.

We’ve also seen success applying machine learning to core computer science and computer systems problems, a growing trend that is spawning entire new conferences like MLSys. In Learning-based Memory Allocation for C++ Server Workloads, a neural network-based language model predicts context-sensitive per-allocation site object lifetime information, and then uses this to organize the heap so as to reduce fragmentation. It is able to reduce fragmentation by up to 78% while only using huge pages (which are better for TLB behavior). End-to-End, Transferable Deep RL for Graph Optimization described an end-to-end transferable deep reinforcement learning method for computational graph optimization that shows 33%-60% speedup on three graph optimization tasks compared to TensorFlow default optimization, with 15x faster convergence over prior computation graph optimization methods.

Overview of GO: An end-to-end graph policy network that combines graph embedding and sequential attention.

As described in Chip Design with Deep Reinforcement Learning, we have also been applying reinforcement learning to the problem of place-and-route in computer chip design. This is normally a very time-consuming, labor-intensive process, and is a major reason that going from an idea for a chip to actually having a fully designed and fabricated chip takes so long. Unlike prior methods, our approach has the ability to learn from past experience and improve over time. In particular, as we train over a greater number of chip blocks, our method becomes better at rapidly generating optimized placements for previously unseen chip blocks. The system is able to generate placements that usually outperform those of human chip design experts, and we have been using this system (running on TPUs) to do placement and layout for major portions of future generations of TPUs. Menger is a recent infrastructure we’ve built for large-scale distributed reinforcement learning that is yielding promising performance for difficult RL tasks such as chip design.

Macro placements of Ariane, an open-source RISC-V processor, as training progresses. On the left, the policy is being trained from scratch, and on the right, a pre-trained policy is being fine-tuned for this chip. Each rectangle represents an individual macro placement. Notice how the cavity that is occupied by non-macro logic cells that is discovered by the from-scratch policy is already present from the outset in the pre-trained policy’s placement.

Responsible AI
The Google AI Principles guide our development of advanced technologies. We continue to invest in responsible AI research and tools, update our recommended technical practices in this area, and share regular updates — including a 2020 blog post and report — on our progress in implementation.

To help better understand the behavior of language models, we developed the Language Interpretability Tool (LIT), a toolkit for better interpretability of language models, enabling interactive exploration and analysis of their decisions. We developed techniques for measuring gendered correlations in pre-trained language models and scalable techniques for reducing gender bias in Google Translate. We used the kernel trick to propose a simple method to estimate the influence of a training data example on an individual prediction. To help non-specialists interpret machine learning results, we extended the TCAV technique introduced in 2019 to now provide a complete and sufficient set of concepts. With the original TCAV work, we were able to say that ‘fur’ and ‘long ears’ are important concepts for ‘rabbit’ prediction. With this work, we can also say that these two concepts are enough to fully explain the prediction; you don’t need any other concepts. Concept bottleneck models are a technique to make models more interpretable by training them so that one of the layers is aligned with pre-defined expert concepts (e.g., “bone spurs present”, or “wing color”, as shown below) before making a final prediction for a task, so that we can not only interpret but also turn on/off these concepts on the fly.

Aligning predictions to pre-identified concepts can make models more interpretable, as described in Concept Bottleneck Models.

In collaboration with many other institutions, we also looked into memorization effects of language models, showing that training data extraction attacks are realistic threats on state-of-the-art large language models. This finding along with a result that embedding models can leak information can have significant privacy implications (especially for models trained on private data). In Thieves of Sesame Street: Model Extraction on BERT-based APIs, we demonstrated that attackers with only API access to a language model could create models whose outputs had very high correlation with the original model, even with relatively few API queries to the original model. Subsequent work demonstrated that attackers can extract smaller models with arbitrary accuracy. On the AI Principle of safety we demonstrated that thirteen published defenses to adversarial examples can be circumvented despite attempting to perform evaluations using adaptive attacks. Our work focuses on laying out the methodology and the approach necessary to perform an adaptive attack, and thus will allow the community to make further progress in building more robust models.

Examining the way in which machine learning systems themselves are examined is also an important area of exploration. In collaboration with the Partnership on AI, we defined a framework for how to audit the use of machine learning in software product settings, drawing on lessons from the aerospace, medical devices, and finance industries and their best practices. In joint work with University of Toronto and MIT, we identified several ethical concerns that can arise when auditing the performance of facial recognition systems. In joint work with the University of Washington, we identified some important considerations related to diversity and inclusion when choosing subsets for evaluating algorithmic fairness. As an initial step in making responsible AI work for the next billion users and to help understand if notions of fairness were consistent in different parts of the world, we analyzed and created a framework for algorithmic fairness in India, accounting for datasets, fairness optimizations, infrastructures, and ecosystems

The Model Cards work that was introduced in collaboration with the University of Toronto in 2019 has been growing in influence. Indeed, many well-known models like OpenAI’s GPT-2 and GPT-3, many of Google’s MediaPipe models and various Google Cloud APIs have all adopted Model Cards as a way of giving users of a machine learning model more information about the model’s development and the observed behavior of the model under different conditions. To make this easier for others to adopt for their own machine learning models, we also introduced the Model Card Toolkit for easier model transparency reporting. In order to increase transparency in ML development practices, we demonstrate the applicability of a range of best practices throughout the dataset development lifecycle, including data requirements specification and data acceptance testing.

In collaboration with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), we announced and helped to fund a National AI Research Institute for Human-AI Interaction and Collaboration. We also released the MinDiff framework, a new regularization technique available in the TF Model Remediation library for effectively and efficiently mitigating unfair biases when training ML models, along with ML-fairness gym for building simple simulations that explore potential long-run impacts of deploying machine learning-based decision systems in social environments.

In addition to developing frameworks for fairness, we developed approaches for identifying and improving the health and quality of experiences with Recommender Systems, including using reinforcement learning to introduce safer trajectories. We also continue to work on improving the reliability of our machine learning systems, where we’ve seen that approaches such as generating adversarial examples can improve robustness and that robustness approaches can improve fairness.

Differential privacy is a way to formally quantify privacy protections and requires a rethinking of the most basic algorithms to operate in a way that they do not leak information about any particular individual. In particular, differential privacy can help in addressing memorization effects and information leakage of the kinds mentioned above. In 2020 there were a number of exciting developments, from more efficient ways of computing private empirical risk minimizers to private clustering methods with tight approximation guarantees and private sketching algorithms. We also open sourced the differential privacy libraries that lie at the core of our internal tools, taking extra care to protect against leakage caused by the floating point representation of real numbers. These are the exact same tools that we use to produce differentially private COVID-19 mobility reports that have been a valuable source of anonymous data for researchers and policymakers.

To help developers assess the privacy properties of their classification models we released an ML privacy testing library in Tensorflow. We hope this library will be the starting point of a robust privacy testing suite that can be used by any machine learning developer around the world.

Membership inference attack on models for CIFAR10. The x-axis is the test accuracy of the model, and y-axis is vulnerability score (lower means more private). Vulnerability grows while test accuracy remains the same — better generalization could prevent privacy leakage.

In addition to pushing the state of the art in developing private algorithms, I am excited about the advances we made in weaving privacy into the fabric of our products. One of the best examples is Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, which changes the underpinnings of the advertising ecosystem and helps systematically protect individuals’ privacy. As part of the project, we proposed and evaluated a number of different APIs, including federated learning of cohorts (FLoC) for interest based targeting, and aggregate APIs for differentially private measurement.

Launched in 2017, federated learning is now a complete research field unto itself, with over 3000 publications on federated learning appearing in 2020 alone. Our cross-institutional Advances and Open Problems in Federated Learning survey paper published in 2019 has been cited 367 times in the past year, and an updated version will soon be published in the Foundations & Trends in Machine Learning series. In July, we hosted a Workshop on Federated Learning and Analytics, and made all research talks and a TensorFlow Federated tutorial publicly available.

The lifecycle of an FL-trained model and the various actors in a federated learning system.

We continue to push the state of the art in federated learning, including the development of new federated optimization algorithms including adaptive learning algorithms, posterior averaging algorithms, and techniques for mimicking centralized algorithms in federated settings, substantial improvements in complimentary cryptographic protocols, and more. We announced and deployed federated analytics, enabling data science over raw data that is stored locally on users’ devices. New uses of federated learning in Google products include contextual emoji suggestions in Gboard, and pioneering privacy-preserving medical research with Google Health Studies. Furthermore, in Privacy Amplification via Random Check-Ins we presented the first privacy accounting mechanism for Federated Learning.

Security for our users is also an area of considerable interest for us. In 2020, we continued to improve protections for Gmail users, by deploying a new ML-based document scanner that provides protection against malicious documents, which increased malicious office document detection by 10% on a daily basis. Thanks to its ability to generalize, this tool has been very effective at blocking some adversarial malware campaigns that elude other detection mechanisms and increased our detection rate by 150% in some cases.

On the account protection side, we released a fully open-source security key firmware to help advance state of art in the two factor authentication space, staying focused on security keys as the best way to protect accounts against phishing.

Natural Language Understanding
Better understanding of language is an area where we saw considerable progress this year. Much of the work in this space from Google and elsewhere now relies on Transformers, a particular style of neural network model originally developed for language problems (but with a growing body of evidence that they are also useful for images, videos, speech, protein folding, and a wide variety of other domains).

One area of excitement is in dialog systems that can chat with a user about something of interest, often encompassing multiple turns of interaction. While successful work in this area to date has involved creating systems that are specialized around particular topics (e.g., Duplex) these systems cannot carry on general conversations. In pursuit of the general research goal of creating systems capable of much more open-ended dialog, in 2020 we described Meena, a learned conversational agent that aspirationally can chat about anything. Meena achieves high scores on a dialog system metric called SSA, which measures both sensibility and specificity of responses. We’ve seen that as we scale up the model size of Meena, it is able to achieve lower perplexity and, as shown in the paper, lower perplexity correlates extremely closely with improved SSA.

A chat between Meena (left) and a person (right).

One well-known issue with generative language models and dialog systems is that when discussing factual data, the model’s capacity may not be large enough to remember every specific detail about a topic, so they generate language that is plausible but incorrect. (This is not unique to machines — people can commit these errors too.) To address this in dialog systems, we are exploring ways to augment a conversational agent by giving it access to external information sources (e.g., a large corpus of documents or a search engine API), and developing learning techniques to use this as an additional resource in order to generate language that is consistent with the retrieved text. Work in this area includes integrating retrieval into language representation models (and a key underlying technology for this to work well is something like ScaNN, an efficient vector similarity search, to efficiently match the desired information to information in the corpus of text). Once appropriate content is found, it can be better understood with approaches like using neural networks to find answers in tables and extracting structured data from templatic documents. Our work on PEGASUS, a state-of-the-art model for abstractive text summarization can also help to create automatic summaries from any piece of text, a general technique useful in conversations, retrieval systems, and many other places.

Efficiency of NLP models has also been a significant focus for our work in 2020. Techniques like transfer learning and multi-task learning can dramatically help with making general NLP models usable for new tasks with modest amounts of computation. Work in this vein includes transfer learning explorations in T5, sparse activation of models (as in our GShard work mentioned below), and more efficient model pre-training with ELECTRA. Several threads of work also look to improve on the basic Transformer architecture, including Reformer, which uses locality-sensitive hashing and reversible computation to more efficiently support much larger attention windows, Performers, which use an approach for attention that scales linearly rather than quadratically (and discusses its use in the context of protein modeling), and ETC and BigBird, which utilize global and sparse random connections, to enable linear scaling for larger and structured sequences. We also explored techniques for creating very lightweight NLP models that are 100x smaller than a larger BERT model, but perform nearly as well for some tasks, making them very suitable for on-device NLP. In Encode, Tag and Realize, we also explored new approaches for generative text models that use edit operations rather than fully general text generation, which can have advantages in computation requirements for generation, more control over the generated text, and require less training data.

Language Translation
Effective language translation helps bring the world closer together by enabling us to all communicate, despite speaking different languages. To date, over a billion people around the world use Google Translate, and last year we added support for five new languages (Kinyarwanda, Odia, Tatar, Turkmen and Uyghur, collectively spoken by 75 million people). Translation quality continues to improve, showing an average +5 BLEU point gain across more than 100 languages from May 2019 to May 2020, through a wide variety of techniques like improved model architectures and training, better handling of noise in datasets, multilingual transfer and multi-task learning, and better use of monolingual data to improve low-resource languages (those without much written public content on the web), directly in line with our goals of improving ML fairness of machine learning systems to provide benefits to the greatest number of people possible.

We strongly believe that continued scaling of multilingual translation models will bring further quality improvements, especially to the billions of speakers of low-resource languages around the world. In GShard: Scaling Giant Models with Conditional Computation and Automatic Sharding, Google researchers showed that training sparsely-activated multilingual translation models of up to 600 billion parameters leads to major improvements in translation quality for 100 languages as measured by BLEU score improvement over a baseline of a separate 400M parameter monolingual baseline model for each language. Three trends stood out in this work, illustrated by Figure 6 in the paper, reproduced below (see the paper for complete discussion):

  • The BLEU score improvements from multilingual training are high for all languages but are even higher for low-resource languages (right hand side of graph is higher than the left) whose speakers represent billions of people in some of the world’s most marginalized communities. Each rectangle on the figure represents languages with 1B speakers.
  • The larger and deeper the model, the larger the BLEU score improvements were across all languages (the lines hardly ever cross).
  • Large, sparse models also show a ~10x to 100x improvement in computational efficiency for model training over training a large, dense model, while simultaneously matching or significantly exceeding the BLEU scores of the large, dense model (computational efficiency discussed in paper).
An illustration of the significant gains in translation quality across 100 languages for large, sparsely-activated language models described in GShard: Scaling Giant Models with Conditional Computation and Automatic Sharding.

We’re actively working on bringing the benefits demonstrated in this GShard research work to Google Translate, as well as training single models that cover 1000 languages, including languages like Dhivehi and Sudanese Arabic (while sharing some challenges that needed solving along the way).

We also developed techniques to create language-agnostic representations of sentences for BERT models, which can help with developing better translation models. To more effectively evaluate translation quality, we introduced BLEURT, a new metric for evaluating language generation for tasks like translation that considers the semantics of the generated text, rather than just the amount of word overlap with ground-truth data, illustrated in the table below.

Machine Learning Algorithms
We continue to develop new machine learning algorithms and approaches for training that enable systems to learn more quickly and from less supervised data. By replaying intermediate results during training of neural networks, we find that we can fill idle time on ML accelerators and therefore can train neural networks faster. By changing the connectivity of neurons dynamically during training, we can find better solutions compared with statically-connected neural networks. We also developed SimCLR, a new self-supervised and semi-supervised learning technique that simultaneously maximizes agreement between differently transformed views of the same image and minimizes agreement between transformed views of different images. This approach significantly improves on the best self-supervised learning techniques.

ImageNet top-1 accuracy of linear classifiers trained on representations learned with different self-supervised methods (pretrained on ImageNet). Gray cross indicates supervised ResNet-50.

We also extended the idea of contrastive learning to the supervised regime, resulting in a loss function that significantly improves over cross-entropy for supervised classification problems.

Reinforcement Learning
Reinforcement learning (RL), which learns to make good long-term decisions from limited experience, has been an important focus area for us. An important challenge in RL is to learn to make decisions from few data points, and we’ve improved RL algorithm efficiency through learning from fixed datasets, learning from other agents, and improving exploration.

A major focus area this year has been around offline RL, which relies solely on fixed, previously collected datasets (for example, from previous experiments or human demonstrations), extending RL to the applications that can’t collect training data on-the-fly. We’ve introduced a duality approach to RL, developed improved algorithms for off-policy evaluation, estimating confidence intervals, and offline policy optimization. In addition, we’re collaborating with the broader community to tackle these problems by releasing open-source benchmark datasets, and DQN dataset for Atari.

Offline RL on Atari games using the DQN Replay Dataset.

Another line of research improved sample efficiency by learning from other agents through apprenticeship learning. We developed methods to learn from informed agents, matching other agent’s distribution, or learning from adversarial examples. To improve the exploration in RL, we explored bonus-based exploration methods including imitation techniques able to mimic structured exploration arising in agents having prior knowledge about their environment.

We’ve also made significant advances in the mathematical theory of reinforcement learning. One of our main areas of research was studying reinforcement learning as an optimization process. We found connections to the Frank-Wolfe algorithm, momentum methods, KL divergence regularization, operator theory, and convergence analysis; some of these insights led to an algorithm that achieves state-of-the-art performance in challenging RL benchmarks and discovery that polynomial transfer functions avoid convergence problems associated with softmax, both in RL and supervised learning. We’ve made some exciting progress on the topic of safe reinforcement learning, where one seeks to discover optimal control rules while respecting important experimental constraints. This includes a framework for safe policy optimization. We studied efficient RL-based algorithms for solving a class of problems known as mean field games, which model systems with a large number of decision-makers, from mobile networks to electric grids.

We’ve made breakthroughs toward generalization to new tasks and environments, an important challenge for scaling up RL to complex real-world problems. A 2020 focus area was population-based learning-to-learn methods, where another RL or evolutionary agent trained a population of RL agents to create a curriculum of emergent complexity, and discover new state-of-the-art RL algorithms. Learning to estimate the importance of data points in the training set and parts of visual input with selective attention resulted in significantly more skillful RL agents.

Overview of our method and illustration of data processing flow in AttentionAgent. Top: Input transformation — A sliding window segments an input image into smaller patches, and then “flattens” them for future processing. Middle: Patch election — The modified self-attention module holds votes between patches to generate a patch importance vector. Bottom: Action generation — AttentionAgent picks the patches of the highest importance, extracts corresponding features and makes decisions based on them.

Further, we made progress in model-based RL by showing that learning predictive behavior models accelerates RL learning, and enables decentralized cooperative multi-agent tasks in diverse teams, and learning long-term behavior models. Observing that skills bring predictable changes in the environment, we discover skills without supervision. Better representations stabilize RL learning, while hierarchical latent spaces and value-improvement paths yield better performance.

We shared open source tools for scaling up and productionizing RL. To expand the scope and problems tackled by users, we’ve introduced SEED, a massively parallel RL agent, released a library for measuring the RL algorithm reliability, and a new version of TF-Agents that includes distributed RL, TPU support, and a full set of bandit algorithms. In addition, we performed a large empirical study of RL algorithms to improve hyperparameter selection and algorithm design.

Finally, in collaboration with Loon, we trained and deployed RL to more efficiently control stratospheric balloons, improving both power usage and their ability to navigate.

AutoML
Using learning algorithms to develop new machine learning techniques and solutions, or meta-learning, is a very active and exciting area of research. In much of our previous work in this area, we’ve created search spaces that look at how to find ways to combine sophisticated hand-designed components together in interesting ways. In AutoML-Zero: Evolving Code that Learns, we took a different approach, by giving an evolutionary algorithm a search space consisting of very primitive operations (like addition, subtraction, variable assignment, and matrix multiplication) in order to see if it was possible to evolve modern ML algorithms from scratch. The presence of useful learning algorithms in this space is incredibly sparse, so it is remarkable that the system was able to progressively evolve more and more sophisticated ML algorithms. As shown in the figure below, the system reinvents many of the most important ML discoveries over the past 30 years, such as linear models, gradient descent, rectified linear units, effective learning rate settings and weight initializations, and gradient normalization.

We also used meta-learning to discover a variety of new efficient architectures for object detection in both still images and videos. Last year’s work on EfficientNet for efficient image classification architectures showed significant accuracy improvements and computational cost reductions for image classification. In follow-on work this year, EfficientDet: Towards Scalable and Efficient Object Detection builds on top of the EfficientNet work to derive new efficient architectures for object detection and localization, showing remarkable improvements in both highest absolute accuracy, as well as computational cost reductions of 13-42x over previous approaches to achieve a given level of accuracy.

EfficientDet achieves state-of-the-art 52.2 mAP, up 1.5 points from the prior state of the art (not shown since it is at 3045B FLOPs) on COCO test-dev under the same setting. Under the same accuracy constraint, EfficientDet models are 4x-9x smaller and use 13x-42x less computation than previous detectors.

Our work on SpineNet describes a meta-learned architecture that can retain spatial information more effectively, allowing detection to be done at finer resolution. We also focused on learning effective architectures for a variety of video classification problems. AssembleNet: Searching for Multi-Stream Neural Connectivity in Video Architectures, AssembleNet++: Assembling Modality Representations via Attention Connections, and AttentionNAS: Spatiotemporal Attention Cell Search for Video Classification demonstrate how to use evolutionary algorithms to create novel state-of-the-art video processing machine learning architectures.

This approach can also be used to develop effective model architectures for time series forecasting. Using AutoML for Time Series Forecasting describes the system that discovers new forecasting models via an automated search over a search space involving many interesting kinds of low-level building blocks, and its effectiveness was demonstrated in the Kaggle M5 Forecasting Competition, by generating an algorithm and system that placed 138th out of 5558 participants (top 2.5%). While many of the competitive forecasting models required months of manual effort to create, our AutoML solution found the model in a short time with only a moderate compute cost (500 CPUs for 2 hours) and no human intervention.

Better Understanding of ML Algorithms and Models
Deeper understanding of machine learning algorithms and models is crucial for designing and training more effective models, as well as understanding when models may fail. Last year, we focused on fundamental questions around representation power, optimization, model generalization, and label noise, among others. As mentioned earlier in this post, Transformer networks have had a huge impact on modeling language, speech and vision problems, but what is the class of functions represented by these models? Recently we showed that transformers are universal approximators for sequence-to-sequence functions. Furthermore, sparse transformers also remain universal approximators even when they use just a linear number of interactions among the tokens. We have been developing new optimization techniques based on layerwise adaptive learning rates to improve the convergence speed of transformers, e.g., Large batch optimization for deep learning (LAMB): Training BERT in 76 minutes.

As neural networks are made wider and deeper, they often train faster and generalize better. This is a core mystery in deep learning since classical learning theory suggests that large networks should overfit more. We are working to understand neural networks in this overparameterized regime. In the limit of infinite width, neural networks take on a surprisingly simple form, and are described by a Neural Network Gaussian Process (NNGP) or Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK). We studied this phenomenon theoretically and experimentally, and released Neural Tangents, an open-source software library written in JAX that allows researchers to build and train infinite-width neural networks.

Left: A schematic showing how deep neural networks induce simple input / output maps as they become infinitely wide. Right: As the width of a neural network increases, we see that the distribution of outputs over different random instantiations of the network becomes Gaussian.

As finite width networks are made larger, they also demonstrate peculiar double descent phenomena — where they generalize better, then worse, then better again with increasing width. We have shown that this phenomenon can be explained by a novel bias-variance decomposition, and further that it can sometimes manifest as triple descent.

Lastly, in real-world problems, one often needs to deal with significant label noise. For instance, in large scale learning scenarios, weakly labeled data is available in abundance with large label noise. We have developed new techniques for distilling effective supervision from severe label noise leading to state-of-the-art results. We have further analyzed the effects of training neural networks with random labels, and shown that it leads to alignment between network parameters and input data, enabling faster downstream training than initializing from scratch. We have also explored questions such as whether label smoothing or gradient clipping can mitigate label noise, leading to new insights for developing robust training techniques with noisy labels.

Algorithmic Foundations and Theory
2020 was a productive year for our work in algorithmic foundations and theory, with several impactful research publications and notable results. On the optimization front, our paper on edge-weighted online bipartite matching develops a new technique for online competitive algorithms and solves a thirty-year old open problem for the edge-weighted variant with applications in efficient online ad allocation. Along with this work in online allocation, we developed dual mirror descent techniques that generalize to a variety of models with additional diversity and fairness constraints, and published a sequence of papers on the topic of online optimization with ML advice in online scheduling, online learning and online linear optimization. Another research result gave the first improvement in 50 years on the classic bipartite matching in dense graphs. Finally, another paper solves a long-standing open problem about chasing convex bodies online — using an algorithm from The Book, no less.

We also continued our work in scalable graph mining and graph-based learning and hosted the Graph Mining & Learning at Scale Workshop at NeurIPS’20, which covered work on scalable graph algorithms including graph clustering, graph embedding, causal inference, and graph neural networks. As part of the workshop, we showed how to solve several fundamental graph problems faster, both in theory and practice, by augmenting standard synchronous computation frameworks like MapReduce with a distributed hash-table similar to a BigTable. Our extensive empirical study validates the practical relevance of the AMPC model inspired by our use of distributed hash tables in massive parallel algorithms for hierarchical clustering and connected components, and our theoretical results show how to solve many of these problems in constant distributed rounds, greatly improving upon our previous results. We also achieved exponential speedup for computing PageRank and random walks. On the graph-based learning side, we presented Grale, our framework for designing graphs for use in machine learning. Furthermore, we presented our work on more scalable graph neural network models, where we show that PageRank can be used to greatly accelerate inference in GNNs.

In market algorithms, an area at the intersection of computer science and economics, we continued our research in designing improved online marketplaces, such as measuring incentive properties of ad auctions, two-sided markets, and optimizing order statistics in ad selection. In the area of repeated auctions, we developed frameworks to make dynamic mechanisms robust against lack of forecasting or estimation errors of the current market and/or the future market, leading to provably tight low-regret dynamic mechanisms. Later, we characterized when it is possible to achieve the asymptotically optimal objective through geometry-based criteria. We also compared the equilibrium outcome of a range of budget management strategies used in practice, showed their impact on the tradeoff between revenue and buyers' utility and shed light on their incentive properties. Additionally, we continued our research in learning optimal auction parameters, and settled the complexity of batch-learning with revenue loss. We designed the optimal regret and studied combinatorial optimization for contextual auction pricing, and developed a new active learning framework for auctions and improved the approximation for posted-price auctions. Finally, motivated by the importance of incentives in ad auctions, and in the hope to help advertisers study the impact of incentives in auctions, we introduce a data-driven metric to quantify how much a mechanism deviates from incentive compatibility.

Machine Perception
Perceiving the world around us — understanding, modeling and acting on visual, auditory and multimodal input — continues to be a research area with tremendous potential to be beneficial in our everyday lives.

In 2020, deep learning powered new approaches that bring 3D computer vision and computer graphics closer together. CvxNet, deep implicit functions for 3D shapes, neural voxel rendering and CoReNet are a few examples of this direction. Furthermore, our research on representing scenes as neural radiance fields (aka NeRF, see also this blog post) is a good example of how Google Research's academic collaborations stimulate rapid progress in the area of neural volume rendering.

In Learning to Factorize and Relight a City, a collaboration with UC Berkeley, we proposed a learning-based framework for disentangling outdoor scenes into temporally-varying illumination and permanent scene factors. This gives the ability to change lighting effects and scene geometry for any Street View panorama, or even turn it into a full-day timelapse video.

Our work on generative human shape and articulated pose models introduces a statistical, articulated 3D human shape modeling pipeline, within a fully trainable, modular, deep learning framework. Such models enable 3D human pose and shape reconstruction of people from a single photo to better understand the scene.

Overview of end-to-end statistical 3D articulated human shape model construction in GHUM & GHUML: Generative 3D Human Shape and Articulated Pose Models.

The growing area of media compression using neural networks continued to make strong progress in 2020, not only on learned image compression, but also in deep approaches to video compression, volume compression and nice results in deep distortion-agnostic image watermarking.

Samples of encoded and cover images for Distortion Agnostic Deep Watermarking. First row: Cover image with no embedded message. Second row: Encoded image from HiDDeN combined distortion model. Third row: Encoded images from our model. Fourth row: Normalized difference of the encoded image and cover image for the HiDDeN combined model. Fifth row: Normalized difference for our model

Additional important themes in perceptual research included:

Engaging with the broader research community through open sourcing of solutions and datasets is another important aspect of furthering perceptual research. In 2020, we open sourced multiple new perceptual inference capabilities and solutions in MediaPipe, such as on-device face, hand and pose prediction, real-time body pose tracking, real-time iris tracking and depth estimation, and real-time 3D object detection.

We continued to make strides to improve experiences and promote helpfulness on mobile devices through ML-based solutions. Our ability to run sophisticated natural language processing on-device, enabling more natural conversational features, continues to improve. In 2020, we expanded Call Screen and launched Hold for Me to allow users to save time when performing mundane tasks, and we also launched language-based actions and language navigability of our Recorder app to aid productivity.

We have used Google's Duplex technology to make calls to businesses and confirm things like temporary closures. This has enabled us to make 3 million updates to business information globally, that have been seen over 20 billion times on Maps and Search. We also used text to speech technology for easier access to web pages, by enabling Google Assistant to read it aloud, supporting 42 languages.

We also continued to make meaningful improvements to imaging applications. We made it easier to capture precious moments on Pixel with innovative controls and new ways to relight, edit, enhance and relive them again in Google Photos. For the Pixel camera, beginning with Pixel 4 and 4a, we added Live HDR+, which uses machine learning to approximate the vibrance and balanced exposure and appearance of HDR+ burst photography in real time in the viewfinder. We also created dual exposure controls, which allow the brightness of shadows and highlights in a scene to be adjusted independently — live in the viewfinder.

More recently, we introduced Portrait Light, a new post-capture feature for the Pixel Camera and Google Photos apps that adds a simulated directional light source to portraits. This feature is again one that is powered by machine learning, having been trained on 70 different people, photographed one light at a time, in our pretty cool 331-LED Light Stage computational illumination system.

In the past year, Google researchers were excited to contribute to many new (and timely) ways of using Google products. Here are a few examples

Robotics
In the area of robotics research, we’ve made tremendous progress in our ability to learn more and more complex, safe and robust robot behaviors with less and less data, using many of the RL techniques described earlier in the post.

Transporter Networks are a novel approach to learning how to represent robotic tasks as spatial displacements. Representing relations between objects and the robot end-effectors, as opposed to absolute positions in the environment, makes learning robust transformations of the workspace very efficient.

In Grounding Language in Play, we demonstrated how a robot can be taught to follow natural language instructions (in many languages!). This required a scalable approach to collecting paired data of natural language instructions and robot behaviors. One key insight is that this can be accomplished by asking robot operators to simply play with the robot, and label after-the-fact what instructions would have led to the robot accomplishing the same task.

We also explored doing away with robots altogether (by having humans use a camera-equipped grasping stick) for even more scalable data collection, and how to efficiently transfer visual representations across robotic tasks.

We investigated how to learn very agile strategies for robot locomotion, by taking inspiration from nature, using evolutionary meta-learning strategies, human demonstrations, and various approaches to training data-efficient controllers using deep reinforcement learning.

One increased emphasis this year has been on safety: how do we deploy safe delivery drones in the real world? How do we explore the world in a way that always allows the robot to recover from its mistakes? How do we certify the stability of learned behaviors? This is a critical area of research on which we expect to see increased focus in the future.

Quantum Computing
Our Quantum AI team continued its work to establish practical uses of quantum computing. We ran experimental algorithms on our Sycamore processors to simulate systems relevant to chemistry and physics. These simulations are approaching a scale at which they can not be performed on classical computers anymore, making good on Feynman’s original idea of using quantum computers as an efficient means to simulate systems in which quantum effects are important. We published new quantum algorithms, for instance to perform precise processor calibration, to show an advantage for quantum machine learning or to test quantum enhanced optimization. We also worked on programming models to make it easier to express quantum algorithms. We released qsim, an efficient simulation tool to develop and test quantum algorithms with up to 40 qubits on Google Cloud.

We continued to follow our roadmap towards building a universal error-corrected quantum computer. Our next milestone is the demonstration that quantum error correction can work in practice. To achieve this, we will show that a larger grid of qubits can hold logical information exponentially longer than a smaller grid, even though individual components such as qubits, couplers or I/O devices have imperfections. We are also particularly excited that we now have our own cleanroom which should significantly increase the speed and quality of our processor fabrication.

Supporting the Broader Developer and Researcher Community
This year marked TensorFlow’s 5th birthday, passing 160M downloads. The TensorFlow community continued its impressive growth with new special interest groups, TensorFlow User Groups, TensorFlow Certificates, AI Service partners, and inspiring demos #TFCommunitySpotlight. We significantly improved TF 2.x with seamless TPU support, out of the box performance (and best-in-class performance on MLPerf 0.7), data preprocessing, distribution strategy and a new NumPy API.

We also added many more capabilities to the TensorFlow Ecosystem to help developers and researchers in their workflows: Sounds of India demonstrated going from research to production in under 90 days, using TFX for training and TF.js for deployment in the browser. With Mesh TensorFlow, we pushed the boundaries of model parallelism to provide ultra-high image resolution image analysis. We open-sourced the new TF runtime, TF Profiler for model performance debugging, and tools for Responsible AI, such as the Model Card Toolkit for model transparency and a privacy testing library. With TensorBoard.dev we made it possible to easily host, track, and share your ML experiments for free.

In addition, we redoubled our investment in JAX, an open-source, research-focused ML system that has been actively developed over the past two years. Researchers at Google and beyond are now using JAX in a wide range of fields, including differential privacy, neural rendering, physics-informed networks, fast attention, molecular dynamics, tensor networks, neural tangent kernels, and neural ODEs. JAX accelerates research at DeepMind, powering a growing ecosystem of libraries and work on GANs, meta-gradients, reinforcement learning, and more. We also used JAX and the Flax neural network library to build record-setting MLPerf benchmark submissions, which we demonstrated live at NeurIPS on a large TPU Pod slice with a next-generation Cloud TPU user experience (slides, video, sign-up form). Finally, we’re ensuring that JAX works seamlessly with TF ecosystem tooling, from TF.data for data preprocessing and TensorBoard for experiment visualization to the TF Profiler for performance debugging, with more to come in 2021.

Many recent research breakthroughs have been enabled by increased computing power, and we make more than 500 petaflops of Cloud TPU computing power available for free to researchers around the world via the TFRC program to help broaden access to the machine learning research frontier. More than 120 TFRC-supported papers have been published to date, many of which would not have been possible without the computing resources that the program provides. For example, TFRC researchers have recently developed simulations of wildfire spread, helped analyze COVID-19 content and vaccine sentiment changes on social media networks, and advanced our collective understanding of the lottery ticket hypothesis and neural network pruning. Members of the TFRC community have also published experiments with Persian poetry, won a Kaggle contest on fine-grained fashion image segmentation, and shared tutorials and open-source tools as starting points for others. In 2021, we will change the name of the TFRC program to the TPU Research Cloud program to be more inclusive now that Cloud TPUs support JAX and PyTorch in addition to TensorFlow.

Finally, this was a huge year for Colab. Usage doubled, and we launched productivity features to help people do their work more efficiently, including improved Drive integration and access to the Colab VM via the terminal. And we launched Colab Pro to enable users to access faster GPUs, longer runtimes and more memory.

Open Datasets and Dataset Search
Open datasets with clear and measurable goals are often very helpful in driving forward the field of machine learning. To help the research community find interesting datasets, we continue to index a wide variety of open datasets sourced from many different organizations with Google Dataset Search. We also think it's important to create new datasets for the community to explore and to develop new techniques, while ensuring that we share open data responsibly. This year, in addition to open datasets to help address the COVID crisis, we released a number of open datasets across many different areas:

Research Community Interaction
We are proud to enthusiastically support and participate in the broader research community. In 2020, Google researchers presented over 500 papers at leading research conferences, additionally serving on program committees, organizing workshops, tutorials and numerous other activities aimed at collectively progressing the state of the art in the field. To learn more about our contributions to some of the larger research conferences this year, please see our blog posts for ICLR 2020, CVPR 2020, ACL 2020, ICML 2020, ECCV 2020 and NeurIPS 2020.

In 2020 we supported external research with $37M in funding, including $8.5M in COVID research, $8M in research inclusion and equity, and $2M in responsible AI research. In February, we announced the 2019 Google Faculty Research Award Recipients, funding research proposals from 150 faculty members throughout the world. Among this group, 27% self-identified as members of historically underrepresented groups within technology. We also announced a new Research Scholar Program to support early-career professors who are pursuing research in fields relevant to Google via unrestricted gifts. As we have for more than a decade, we selected a group of incredibly talented PhD student researchers to receive Google PhD Fellowships, which provides funding for graduate studies, as well as mentorship as they pursue their research, and opportunities to interact with other Google PhD Fellows.

We are also expanding the ways that we support inclusion and bring new voices into the field of computer science. In 2020, we created a new Award for Inclusion Research program that supports academic research in computing and technology addressing the needs of underrepresented populations. In the inaugural set of awards, we selected 16 proposals for funding with 25 principal investigators, focused on topics around diversity and inclusion, algorithmic bias, education innovation, health tools, accessibility, gender bias, AI for social good, security, and social justice. We additionally partnered with the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI) and the CMD-IT Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate Alliance (FLIP) to create an award program for doctoral students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to support the last year of the completion of the dissertation requirements.

In 2019, Google’s CS Research Mentorship Program (CSRMP) helped provide mentoring to 37 undergraduate students to introduce them to conducting computer science research. Based on the success of the program in 2019/2020, we’re excited to greatly expand this program in 2020/2021 and will have hundreds of Google researchers mentoring hundreds of undergraduate students in order to encourage more people from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue computer science research careers. Finally, in October we provided exploreCSR awards to 50 institutions around the world for the 2020 academic year. These awards fund faculty to host workshops for undergraduates from underrepresented groups in order to encourage them to pursue CS research.

Looking Forward to 2021 and Beyond
I’m excited about what’s to come, from our technical work on next-generation AI models, to the very human work of growing our community of researchers.

We’ll keep ensuring our research is done responsibly and has a positive impact, using our AI Principles as a guiding framework and applying particular scrutiny to topics that can have broad societal impact. This post covers just a few of the many papers on responsible AI that Google published in the past year. While pursuing our research, we’ll focus on:

  • Promoting research integrity: We’ll make sure Google keeps conducting a wide range of research in an appropriate manner, and provides comprehensive, scientific views on a variety of challenging, interesting topics.
  • Responsible AI development: Tackling tough topics will remain core to our work, and Google will continue creating new ML algorithms to make machine learning more efficient and accessible, developing approaches to combat unfair bias in language models, devising new techniques for ensuring privacy in learning systems, and much more. And importantly, beyond looking at AI development with a suitably critical eye, we’re eager to see what techniques we and others in the community can develop to mitigate risks and make sure new technologies have equitable, positive impacts on society.
  • Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion: We care deeply that the people who are building influential products and computing systems better reflect the people using these products all around the world. Our efforts here are both within Google Research, as well as within the wider research and academic communities — we’ll be calling upon the academic and industry partners we work with to advance these efforts together. On a personal level, I am deeply committed to improving representation in computer science, having spent hundreds of hours working towards these goals over the last few years, as well as supporting universities like Berkeley, CMU, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Howard, UW, and numerous other organizations that work to advance inclusiveness. This is important to me, to Google, and to the broader computer science community.

Finally, looking ahead to the year, I’m particularly enthusiastic about the possibilities of building more general-purpose machine learning models that can handle a variety of modalities and that can automatically learn to accomplish new tasks with very few training examples. Advances in this area will empower people with dramatically more capable products, bringing better translation, speech recognition, language understanding and creative tools to billions of people all around the world. This kind of exploration and impact is what keeps us excited about our work!

Acknowledgements
Thanks to Martin Abadi, Marc Bellemare, Elie Bursztein, Zhifeng Chen, Ed Chi, Charina Chou, Katherine Chou, Eli Collins, Greg Corrado, Corinna Cortes, Tiffany Deng, Tulsee Doshi, Robin Dua, Kemal El Moujahid, Aleksandra Faust, Orhan Firat, Jen Gennai, Till Hennig, Ben Hutchinson, Alex Ingerman, Tomáš Ižo, Matthew Johnson, Been Kim, Sanjiv Kumar, Yul Kwon, Steve Langdon, James Laudon, Quoc Le, Yossi Matias, Brendan McMahan, Aranyak Mehta, Vahab Mirrokni, Meg Mitchell, Hartmut Neven, Mohammad Norouzi, Timothy Novikoff, Michael Piatek, Florence Poirel, David Salesin, Nithya Sambasivan, Navin Sarma, Tom Small, Jascha Sohl-Dickstein, Zak Stone, Rahul Sukthankar, Mukund Sundararajan, Andreas Terzis, Sergei Vassilvitskii, Vincent Vanhoucke, and Leslie Yeh and others for helpful feedback and for drafting portions of this post, and to the entire Research and Health communities at Google for everyone’s contributions towards this work.

Source: Google AI Blog


Meet the researcher creating more access with language

When you’ve got your hands full, so you use your voice to ask your phone to play your favorite song, it can feel like magic. In reality, it’s a more complicated combination of engineering, design and natural language processing at work, making it easier for many of us to use our smartphones. But what happens when this voice technology isn’t available in our own language? 

This is something Google India researcher Shachi Dave considers as part of her day-to-day work. While English is the most widely spoken language globally, it ranks third as the most widely spoken native language (behind Mandarin and Spanish)—just ahead of Hindi, Bengali and a number of other languages that are official in India. Home to more than one billion people and an impressive number of official languages—22, to be exact—India is at the cutting edge of Google’s language localization or L10n (10 represents the number of letters between ‘l’ and ‘n’) efforts. 

Shachi, who is a founding member of the Google India Research team, works on natural language understanding, a field of artificial intelligence (AI) which builds computer algorithms to understand our everyday speech and language. Working with Google’s AI principles, she aims to ensure teams build our products to be socially beneficial and inclusive. Born and raised in India, Shachi graduated with a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Southern California. After working at a few U.S. startups, she joined Google over 12 years ago and returned to India to take on more research and leadership responsibilities. Since she joined the company, she has worked closely with teams in Mountain View, New York, Zurich and Tel Aviv. She also actively contributes towards improving diversity and inclusion at Google through mentoring fellow female software engineers.

How would you explain your job to someone who isn't in tech?

My job is to make sure computers can understand and interact with humans naturally, a field of computer science we call natural language processing (NLP). Our research has found that many Indian users tend to use a mix of English and their native language when interacting with our technology, so that’s why understanding natural language is so important—it’s key to localization, our efforts to provide our services in every language and culture—while making sure our technology is fun to use and natural-sounding along the way.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re tackling in your work now?


The biggest challenge is that India is a multilingual country, with 22 official languages. I have seen friends, family and even strangers struggle with technology that doesn’t work for them in their language, even though it can work so well in other languages. 

Let’s say one of our users is a shop owner and lives in a small village in the southern Indian state of Telangana. She goes online for the first time with her phone. But since she has never used a computer or smartphone before, using her voice is the most natural way for her to interact with her phone. While she knows some English, she is also more comfortable speaking in her native language, Telugu. Our job is to make sure that she has a positive experience and does not have to struggle to get the information she needs. Perhaps she’s able to order more goods for her shop through the web, or maybe she decides to have her services listed online to grow her business. 

So that’s part of my motivation to do my research, and that’s one of Google’s AI Principles, too—to make sure our technology is socially beneficial. 

Speaking of the AI Principles, what other principles help inform your research?

Another one of Google’s AI Principles is avoiding creating or reinforcing unfair bias. AI systems are good at recognizing patterns within data. Given that most data that we feed into training an AI system is generated by humans, it tends to have human biases and prejudices. I look for systematic ways to remove these biases. This requires constant awareness: being aware of how people have different languages, backgrounds and financial statuses. Our society has people from the entire financial spectrum, from super rich to low-income, so what works on the most expensive phones might not work on lower-cost devices. Also, some of our users might not be able to read or write, so we need to provide some audio and visual tools for them to have a better internet experience.

What led you to this career and inspired you to join Google?  

I took an Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course as an undergraduate, and it piqued my interest and curiosity. That ultimately led to research on machine translation at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and then an advanced degree at the University of Southern California. After that, I spent some time working at U.S. startups that were using NLP and machine learning. 

But I wanted more. I wanted to be intellectually challenged, solving hard problems. Since Google had the computing power and reputation for solving problems at scale, it became one of my top choices for places to work. 

Now you’ve been at Google for over 12 years. What are some of the most rewarding moments of your career?

Definitely when I saw the quality improvements I worked on go live on Google Search and Assistant, positively impacting millions of people. I remember I was able to help launch local features like getting the Assistant to play the songs people wanted to hear. Playing music upon request makes people happy, and it’s a feature that still works today. 

Over the years, I have gone through difficult situations as someone from an underrepresented group. I was fortunate to have a great support network—women peers as well as allies—who helped me. I try to pay it forward by being a mentor for underrepresented groups both within and outside Google.

How should aspiring AI researchers prepare for a career in this field? 

First, be a lifelong learner: The industry is moving at a fast pace. It’s important to carve out time to keep yourself well-read about the latest research in your field as well as related fields.

Second, know your motivation: When a problem is super challenging and super hard, you need to have that focus and belief that what you’re doing is going to contribute positively to our society.

End-to-End, Transferable Deep RL for Graph Optimization

An increasing number of applications are driven by large and complex neural networks trained on diverse sets of accelerators. This process is facilitated by ML compilers that map high-level computational graphs to low-level, device-specific executables. In doing so, ML compilers need to solve many optimization problems, including graph rewriting, assignment of operations on devices, operation fusion, layout and tiling of tensors, and scheduling. For example, in a device placement problem, the compiler needs to determine the mapping between operations in the computational graph to the target physical devices so that an objective function, such as training step time, can be minimized. The placement performance is determined by a mixture of intricate factors, including inter-device network bandwidth, peak device memory, co-location constraints, etc., making it challenging for heuristics or search-based algorithms, which typically settle for fast, but sub-optimal, solutions. Furthermore, heuristics are hard to develop and maintain, especially as newer model architectures emerge.

Recent attempts at using learning-based approaches have demonstrated promising results, but they have a number of limitations that make them infeasible to be deployed in practice. Firstly, these approaches do not easily generalize to unseen graphs, especially those arising from newer model architectures, and second, they have poor sample efficiency, leading to high resource consumption during training. Finally, they are only able to solve a single optimization task, and consequently, do not capture the dependencies across the tightly coupled optimization problems in the compilation stack.

In “Transferable Graph Optimizers for ML Compilers”, recently published as an oral paper at NeurIPS 2020, we propose an end-to-end, transferable deep reinforcement learning method for computational graph optimization (GO) that overcomes all of the above limitations. We demonstrate 33%-60% speedup on three graph optimization tasks compared to TensorFlow default optimization. On a diverse set of representative graphs consisting of up to 80,000 nodes, including Inception-v3, Transformer-XL, and WaveNet, GO achieves an average 21% improvement over expert optimization and an 18% improvement over the prior state of the art with 15x faster convergence.

Graph Optimization Problems in ML Compilers
There are three coupled optimization tasks that frequently arise in ML compilers, which we formulate as decision problems that can be solved using a learned policy. The decision problems for each of the tasks can be reframed as making a decision for each node in the computational graph.

The first optimization task is device placement, where the goal is to determine how best to assign the nodes of the graph to the physical devices on which it runs such that the end-to-end run time is minimized.

The second optimization task is operation scheduling. An operation in a computational graph is ready to run when its incoming tensors are present in the device memory. A frequently used scheduling strategy is to maintain a ready queue of operations for each device and schedule operations in first-in-first-out order. However, this scheduling strategy does not take into account the downstream operations placed on other devices that might be blocked by an operation, and often leads to schedules with underutilized devices. To find schedules that can keep track of such cross-device dependencies, our approach uses a priority-based scheduling algorithm that schedules operations in the ready queue based on the priority of each. Similar to device placement, operation scheduling can then be formulated as the problem of learning a policy that assigns a priority for each node in the graph to maximize a reward based on run time.

The third optimization task is operation fusion. For brevity we omit a detailed discussion of this problem here, and instead just note that similar to priority-based scheduling, operation fusion can also use a priority-based algorithm to decide which nodes to fuse. The goal of the policy network in this case is again to assign a priority for each node in the graph.

Finally, it is important to recognize that the decisions taken in each of the three optimization problems can affect the optimal decision for the other problems. For example, placing two nodes on two different devices effectively disables fusion and introduces a communication delay that can influence scheduling.

RL Policy Network Architecture
Our research presents GO, a deep RL framework that can be adapted to solve each of the aforementioned optimization problems — both individually as well as jointly. There are three key aspects of the proposed architecture:

First, we use graph neural networks (specifically GraphSAGE) to capture the topological information encoded in the computational graph. The inductive network of GraphSAGE leverages node attribute information to generalize to previously unseen graphs, which enables decision making for unseen data without incurring significant cost on training.

Second, computational graphs for many models often contain more than 10k nodes. Solving the optimization problems effectively over such large scales requires that the network is able to capture long-range dependencies between nodes. GO’s architecture includes a scalable attention network that uses segment-level recurrence to capture such long-range node dependencies.

Third, ML compilers need to solve optimization problems over a wide variety of graphs from different application domains. A naive strategy of training a shared policy network with heterogeneous graphs is unlikely to capture the idiosyncrasies of a particular class of graphs. To overcome this, GO uses a feature modulation mechanism that allows the network to specialize for specific graph types without increasing the number of parameters.

Overview of GO: An end-to-end graph policy network that combines graph embedding and sequential attention.

To jointly solve multiple dependent optimization tasks, GO has the ability to add additional recurrent attention layers for each task with parameters shared across different tasks. The recurrent attention layers with residual connections of actions enables tracking inter-task dependencies.

Multi-task policy network that extends GO’s policy network with additional recurrent attention layers for each task and residual connections. GE: Graph Embedding, FC: Fully-Connected Layer, Nxf: fusion action dimension, Fxd: placement action dimension, Nxs: scheduling action dimension.

Results
Next, we present evaluation results on a single-task speedup on a device placement task based on real-hardware measurements, generalization to unseen graphs with different GO variants, and multi-task performance jointly optimizing operations fusion, device placement, and scheduling.

Speedup:
To evaluate the performance of this architecture, we apply GO to a device placement problem based on real-hardware evaluation, where we first train the model separately on each of our workloads. This approach, called GO-one, consistently outperforms expert manual placement (HP), TensorFlow METIS placement, and Hierarchical Device Placement (HDP) — the current state-of-the-art reinforcement learning-based device placement. Importantly, with the efficient end-to-end single-shot placement, GO-one has a 15x speedup in convergence time of the placement network over HDP.

Our empirical results show that GO-one consistently outperforms expert placement, TensorFlow METIS placement, and hierarchical device placement (HDP). Because GO is designed in a way to scale up to extremely large graphs consisting of over 80,000 nodes like an 8-layer Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) model, it outperforms previous approaches, including HDP, REGAL, and Placeto. GO achieves optimized graph runtimes for large graphs like GNMT that are 21.7% and 36.5% faster than HP and HDP, respectively. Overall, GO-one achieves on average 20.5% and 18.2% run time reduction across a diverse set of 14 graphs, compared to HP and HDP respectively. Importantly, with the efficient end-to-end single-shot placement, GO-one has a 15x speedup in convergence time of the placement network over HDP.

Generalization:
GO generalizes to unseen graphs using offline pre-training followed by fine-tuning on the unseen graphs. During pre-training, we train GO on heterogeneous subsets of graphs from the training set. We train GO for 1000 steps on each such batch of graphs before switching to the next. This pretrained model is then fine-tuned (GO-generalization+finetune) on hold-out graphs for fewer than 50 steps, which typically takes less than one minute. GO-generalization+finetune for hold-out graphs outperforms both expert placement and HDP consistently on all datasets, and on average matches GO-one.

We also run inference directly on just the pre-trained model without any fine-tuning for the target hold-out graphs, and name this GO-generalization-zeroshot. The performance of this untuned model is only marginally worse than GO-generalization+finetune, while being slightly better than expert placement and HDP. This indicates that both graph embedding and the learned policies transfer efficiently, allowing the model to generalize to the unseen data.

Generalization across heterogeneous workload graphs. The figure shows a comparison of two different generalization strategies for GO when trained with graphs from 5 (except the held-out one) of the 6 workloads (Inception-v3, AmoebaNet, recurrent neural network language model (RNNLM), Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT), Transformer-XL (TRFXL), WaveNet), and evaluated on the held-out workload (x-axis).

Co-optimizing placement, scheduling, and fusion (pl+sch+fu):
Optimizing simultaneously for placement, scheduling and fusion provides 30%-73% speedup compared to the single-gpu unoptimized case and 33%-60% speedup compared to TensorFlow default placement, scheduling, and fusion. Comparing to optimizing each tasks individually, multi-task GO (pl+sch+fu) outperforms single-task GO (p | sch | fu) — optimizing all tasks, one at a time — by an average of 7.8%. Furthermore, for all workloads, co-optimizing all three tasks offers faster run time than optimizing any two of them and using the default policy for the third.

Run time for various workloads on multi-task optimizations. TF-default: TF GPU default placement, fusion, and scheduling. hp-only: human placement only with default scheduling and fusion. pl-only: GO placement only with default scheduling and fusion. pl | sch: GO optimizes placement and scheduling individually with default fusion. pl+sch: multi-task GO co-optimizes placement and scheduling with default fusion. sch+fu: multi-task GO co-optimizes scheduling and fusion with human placement. pl | sch | fu: GO optimizes placement, scheduling, and fusion separately. pl+sch+fu: multi-task GO co-optimizes placement, scheduling, and fusion.

Conclusion
The increasing complexity and diversity of hardware accelerators has made the development of robust and adaptable ML frameworks onerous and time-consuming, often requiring multiple years of effort from hundreds of engineers. In this article, we demonstrated that many of the optimization problems in such frameworks can be solved efficiently and optimally using a carefully designed learned approach.

Acknowledgements
This is joint work with Daniel Wong, Amirali Abdolrashidi, Peter Ma, Qiumin Xu, Hanxiao Liu, Mangpo Phitchaya Phothilimthana, Shen Wang, Anna Goldie, Azalia Mirhoseini, and James Laudon.

Source: Google AI Blog


Privacy Considerations in Large Language Models

Machine learning-based language models trained to predict the next word in a sentence have become increasingly capable, common, and useful, leading to groundbreaking improvements in applications like question-answering, translation, and more. But as language models continue to advance, new and unexpected risks can be exposed, requiring the research community to proactively work to develop new ways to mitigate potential problems.

One such risk is the potential for models to leak details from the data on which they’re trained. While this may be a concern for all large language models, additional issues may arise if a model trained on private data were to be made publicly available. Because these datasets can be large (hundreds of gigabytes) and pull from a range of sources, they can sometimes contain sensitive data, including personally identifiable information (PII) — names, phone numbers, addresses, etc., even if trained on public data. This raises the possibility that a model trained using such data could reflect some of these private details in its output. It is therefore important to identify and minimize the risks of such leaks, and to develop strategies to address the issue for future models.

If one prompts the GPT-2 language model with the prefix “East Stroudsburg Stroudsburg...”, it will autocomplete a long block of text that contains the full name, phone number, email address, and physical address of a particular person whose information was included in GPT-2’s training data.

In “Extracting Training Data from Large Language Models”, a collaboration with OpenAI, Apple, Stanford, Berkeley, and Northeastern University, we demonstrate that, given only the ability to query a pre-trained language model, it is possible to extract specific pieces of training data that the model has memorized. As such, training data extraction attacks are realistic threats on state-of-the-art large language models. This research represents an early, critical step intended to inform researchers about this class of vulnerabilities, so that they may take steps to mitigate these weaknesses.

Ethics of Language Model Attacks
A training data extraction attack has the greatest potential for harm when applied to a model that is available to the public, but for which the dataset used in training is not. However, since conducting this research on such a dataset could have harmful consequences, we instead mount a proof of concept training data extraction attack on GPT-2, a large, publicly available language model developed by OpenAI, that was trained using only public data. While this work focuses on GPT-2 specifically, the results apply to understanding what privacy threats are possible on large language models generally.

As with other privacy- and security-related research, it is important to consider the ethics of such attacks before actually performing them. To minimize the potential risk of this work, the training data extraction attack in this work was developed using publicly available data. Furthermore, the GPT-2 model itself was made public by OpenAI in 2019, and the training data used to train GPT-2 was collected from the public internet, and is available for download by anyone who follows the data collection process documented in the GPT-2 paper.

Additionally, in accordance with responsible computer security disclosure norms, we followed up with individuals whose PII was extracted, and secured their permission before including references to this data in publication. Further, in all publications of this work, we have redacted any personally identifying information that may identify individuals. We have also worked closely with OpenAI in the analysis of GPT-2.

The Training Data Extraction Attack
By design, language models make it very easy to generate a large amount of output data. By seeding the model with random short phrases, the model can generate millions of continuations, i.e., probable phrases that complete the sentence. Most of the time, these continuations will be benign strings of sensible text. For example, when asked to predict the continuation of the string “Mary had a little…”, a language model will have high confidence that the next token is the word “lamb”. However, if one particular training document happened to repeat the string “Mary had a little wombat” many times, the model might predict that phrase instead.

The goal of a training data extraction attack is then to sift through the millions of output sequences from the language model and predict which text is memorized. To accomplish this, our approach leverages the fact that models tend to be more confident on results captured directly from their training data. These membership inference attacks enable us to predict if a result was used in the training data by checking the confidence of the model on a particular sequence.

The main technical contribution of this work is the development of a method for inferring membership with high accuracy along with techniques for sampling from models in a way that encourages the output of memorized content. We tested a number of different sampling strategies, the most successful of which generates text conditioned on a wide variety of input phrases. We then compare the output of two different language models. When one model has high confidence in a sequence, but the other (equally accurate) model has low confidence in a sequence, it's likely that the first model has memorized the data.

Results
Out of 1800 candidate sequences from the GPT-2 language model, we extracted over 600 that were memorized from the public training data, with the total number limited by the need for manual verification. The memorized examples cover a wide range of content, including news headlines, log messages, JavaScript code, PII, and more. Many of these examples are memorized even though they appear infrequently in the training dataset. For example, for many samples of PII we extract are found in only a single document in the dataset. However, in most of these cases, the originating document contains multiple instances of the PII, and as a result, the model still learns it as high likelihood text.

Finally, we also find that the larger the language model, the more easily it memorizes training data. For example, in one experiment we find that the 1.5 billion parameter GPT-2 XL model memorizes 10 times more information than the 124 million parameter GPT-2 Small model. Given that the research community has already trained models 10 to 100 times larger, this means that as time goes by, more work will be required to monitor and mitigate this problem in increasingly large language models.

Lessons
While we demonstrate these attacks on GPT-2 specifically, they show potential flaws in all large generative language models. The fact that these attacks are possible has important consequences for the future of machine learning research using these types of models.

Fortunately, there are several ways to mitigate this issue. The most straightforward solution is to ensure that models do not train on any potentially problematic data. But this can be difficult to do in practice.

The use of differential privacy, which allows training on a dataset without revealing any details of individual training examples, is one of the most principled techniques to train machine learning models with privacy. In TensorFlow, this can be achieved with the use of the tensorflow/privacy module (or similar for PyTorch or JAX) that is a drop-in replacement for existing optimizers. Even this can have limitations and won’t prevent memorization of content that is repeated often enough. If this is not possible, we recommend at least measuring how much memorization occurs so appropriate action can be taken.

Language models continue to demonstrate great utility and flexibility—yet, like all innovations, they can also pose risks. Developing them responsibly means proactively identifying those risks and developing ways to mitigate them. We hope that this effort to highlight current weaknesses in large language modeling will raise awareness of this challenge in the broader machine learning community and motivate researchers to continue to develop effective techniques to train models with reduced memorization.

Acknowledgements
This work was performed jointly with Florian Tramer, Eric Wallace, Matthew Jagielski, Ariel Herbert-Voss, Katherine Lee, Adam Roberts, Tom Brown, Dawn Song, Ulfar Erlingsson, Alina Oprea, and Colin Raffel.

Source: Google AI Blog


Portrait Light: Enhancing Portrait Lighting with Machine Learning

Professional portrait photographers are able to create compelling photographs by using specialized equipment, such as off-camera flashes and reflectors, and expert knowledge to capture just the right illumination of their subjects. In order to allow users to better emulate professional-looking portraits, we recently released Portrait Light, a new post-capture feature for the Pixel Camera and Google Photos apps that adds a simulated directional light source to portraits, with the directionality and intensity set to complement the lighting from the original photograph.

Example image with and without Portrait Light applied. Note how Portrait Light contours the face, adding dimensionality, volume, and visual interest.

In the Pixel Camera on Pixel 4, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a (5G), and Pixel 5, Portrait Light is automatically applied post-capture to images in the default mode and to Night Sight photos that include people — just one person or even a small group. In Portrait Mode photographs, Portrait Light provides more dramatic lighting to accompany the shallow depth-of-field effect already applied, resulting in a studio-quality look. But because lighting can be a personal choice, Pixel users who shoot in Portrait Mode can manually re-position and adjust the brightness of the applied lighting within Google Photos to match their preference. For those running Google Photos on Pixel 2 or newer, this relighting capability is also available for many pre-existing portrait photographs.

Pixel users can adjust a portrait’s lighting as they like in Google Photos, after capture.

Today we present the technology behind Portrait Light. Inspired by the off-camera lights used by portrait photographers, Portrait Light models a repositionable light source that can be added into the scene, with the initial lighting direction and intensity automatically selected to complement the existing lighting in the photo. We accomplish this by leveraging novel machine learning models, each trained using a diverse dataset of photographs captured in the Light Stage computational illumination system. These models enabled two new algorithmic capabilities:

  1. Automatic directional light placement: For a given portrait, the algorithm places a synthetic directional light in the scene consistent with how a photographer would have placed an off-camera light source in the real world.
  2. Synthetic post-capture relighting: For a given lighting direction and portrait, synthetic light is added in a way that looks realistic and natural.

These innovations enable Portrait Light to help create attractive lighting at any moment for every portrait — all on your mobile device.

Automatic Light Placement
Photographers usually rely on perceptual cues when deciding how to augment environmental illumination with off-camera light sources. They assess the intensity and directionality of the light falling on the face, and also adjust their subject’s head pose to complement it. To inform Portrait Light’s automatic light placement, we developed computational equivalents to these two perceptual signals.

First, we trained a novel machine learning model to estimate a high dynamic range, omnidirectional illumination profile for a scene based on an input portrait. This new lighting estimation model infers the direction, relative intensity, and color of all light sources in the scene coming from all directions, considering the face as a light probe. We also estimate the head pose of the portrait’s subject using MediaPipe Face Mesh.

Estimating the high dynamic range, omnidirectional illumination profile from an input portrait. The three spheres at the right of each image, diffuse (top), matte silver (middle), and mirror (bottom), are rendered using the estimated illumination, each reflecting the color, intensity, and directionality of the environmental lighting.

Using these clues, we determine the direction from which the synthetic lighting should originate. In studio portrait photography, the main off-camera light source, or key light, is placed about 30° above the eyeline and between 30° and 60° off the camera axis, when looking overhead at the scene. We follow this guideline for a classic portrait look, enhancing any pre-existing lighting directionality in the scene while targeting a balanced, subtle key-to-fill lighting ratio of about 2:1.

Data-Driven Portrait Relighting
Given a desired lighting direction and portrait, we next trained a new machine learning model to add the illumination from a directional light source to the original photograph. Training the model required millions of pairs of portraits both with and without extra light. Photographing such a dataset in normal settings would have been impossible because it requires near-perfect registration of portraits captured across different lighting conditions.

Instead, we generated training data by photographing seventy different people using the Light Stage computational illumination system. This spherical lighting rig includes 64 cameras with different viewpoints and 331 individually-programmable LED light sources. We photographed each individual illuminated one-light-at-a-time (OLAT) by each light, which generates their reflectance field — or their appearance as illuminated by the discrete sections of the spherical environment. The reflectance field encodes the unique color and light-reflecting properties of the subject’s skin, hair, and clothing — how shiny or dull each material appears. Due to the superposition principle for light, these OLAT images can then be linearly added together to render realistic images of the subject as they would appear in any image-based lighting environment, with complex light transport phenomena like subsurface scattering correctly represented.

Using the Light Stage, we photographed many individuals with different face shapes, genders, skin tones, hairstyles, and clothing/accessories. For each person, we generated synthetic portraits in many different lighting environments, both with and without the added directional light, rendering millions of pairs of images. This dataset encouraged model performance across diverse lighting environments and individuals.

Photographing an individual as illuminated one-light-at-a-time in the Google Light Stage, a 360° computational illumination rig.
Left: Example images from an individual’s photographed reflectance field, their appearance in the Light Stage as illuminated one-light-at-a-time. Right: The images can be added together to form the appearance of the subject in any novel lighting environment.

Learning Detail-Preserving Relighting Using the Quotient Image
Rather than trying to directly predict the output relit image, we trained the relighting model to output a low-resolution quotient image, i.e., a per-pixel multiplier that when upsampled can be applied to the original input image to produce the desired output image with the contribution of the extra light source added. This technique is computationally efficient and encourages only low-frequency lighting changes, without impacting high-frequency image details, which are directly transferred from the input to maintain image quality.

Supervising Relighting with Geometry Estimation
When photographers add an extra light source into a scene, its orientation relative to the subject’s facial geometry determines how much brighter each part of the face appears. To model the optical behavior of light sources reflecting off relatively matte surfaces, we first trained a machine learning model to estimate surface normals given the input photograph, and then applied Lambert’s law to compute a “light visibility map” for the desired lighting direction. We provided this light visibility map as input to the quotient image predictor, ensuring that the model is trained using physics-based insights.

The pipeline of our relighting network. Given an input portrait, we estimate per-pixel surface normals, which we then use to compute a light visibility map. The model is trained to produce a low-resolution quotient image that, when upsampled and applied as a multiplier to the original image, produces the original portrait with an extra light source added synthetically into the scene.

We optimized the full pipeline to run at interactive frame-rates on mobile devices, with total model size under 10 MB. Here are a few examples of Portrait Light in action.

Portrait Light in action.

Getting the Most Out of Portrait Light
You can try Portrait Light in the Pixel Camera and change the light position and brightness to your liking in Google Photos. For those who use Dual Exposure Controls, Portrait Light can be applied post-capture for additional creative flexibility to find just the right balance between light and shadow. On existing images from your Google Photos library, try it where faces are slightly underexposed, where Portrait Light can illuminate and highlight your subject. It will especially benefit images with a single individual posed directly at the camera.

We see Portrait Light as the first step on the journey towards creative post-capture lighting controls for mobile cameras, powered by machine learning.

Acknowledgements
Portrait Light is the result of a collaboration between Google Research, Google Daydream, Pixel, and Google Photos teams. Key contributors include: Yun-Ta Tsai, Rohit Pandey, Sean Fanello, Chloe LeGendre, Michael Milne, Ryan Geiss, Sam Hasinoff, Dillon Sharlet, Christoph Rhemann, Peter Denny, Kaiwen Guo, Philip Davidson, Jonathan Taylor, Mingsong Dou, Pavel Pidlypenskyi, Peter Lincoln, Jay Busch, Matt Whalen, Jason Dourgarian, Geoff Harvey, Cynthia Herrera, Sergio Orts Escolano, Paul Debevec, Jonathan Barron, Sofien Bouaziz, Clement Ng, Rachit Gupta, Jesse Evans, Ryan Campbell, Sonya Mollinger, Emily To, Yichang Shih, Jana Ehmann, Wan-Chun Alex Ma, Christina Tong, Tim Smith, Tim Ruddick, Bill Strathearn, Jose Lima, Chia-Kai Liang, David Salesin, Shahram Izadi, Navin Sarma, Nisha Masharani, Zachary Senzer.


1  Work conducted while at Google. 

Source: Google AI Blog