Intel Labs Presents Advancements in Machine Learning at ICML 2021


  • Thirty-eighth International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) takes place virtually from July 18th-24th.

  • Intel is a platinum sponsor and will present five papers on its latest research in machine learning, including a paper on “Megaverse,” a new 3D simulation platform for reinforcement learning and embodied AI research.


This year marks the 28th year that the ICML 2021 International Conference on Machine Learning, the industry’s top conference in machine learning. More than 10,800 virtual participants are expected to come together to present and learn about the latest advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), statistics, and data science for applications ranging from machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition and robotics. 

Intel will present research on topics ranging from a new 3D simulation platform for reinforced learning and embodied AI research, a method for efficient differentiable simulation of articulated bodies, stabilizing equilibrium models by Jacobian regularization, training deep graph neural networks (GNNs), and accurate post-training quantization with small calibration sets.

Intel Labs is publishing four papers at the conference, including one on a 3D simulation platform called Megaverse used for reinforcement learning and embodied AI, or AI for robots that can interact with the physical world. The research paper, “Megaverse: Simulating Embodied Agents at One Million Experiences per Second,” was led by Vladlen Koltun, chief scientist for Intelligent Systems at Intel and researchers working in machine learning. The Megaverse platform enables developers to create “model environments” to democratize embodied AI research and this important research paves the way for further proliferation of AI in robotics. 

Here is a list of papers: 

•    Megaverse: Simulating Embodied Agents at One Million Experiences per Second

We present Megaverse, a new 3D simulation platform for reinforcement learning and embodied AI research. The efficient design of our engine enables physics-based simulation with high-dimensional egocentric observations at more than 1,000,000 actions per second on a single 8-GPU node. Megaverse is up to 70x faster than DeepMind Lab in fully-shaded 3D scenes with interactive objects. We achieve this high simulation performance by leveraging batched simulation, thereby taking full advantage of the massive parallelism of modern GPUs. We use Megaverse to build a new benchmark that consists of several single-agent and multi-agent tasks covering a variety of cognitive challenges. We evaluate model-free RL on this benchmark to provide baselines and facilitate future research.

•    Efficient Differentiable Simulation of Articulated Bodies

We present a method for efficient differentiable simulation of articulated bodies. This enables integration of articulated body dynamics into deep learning frameworks, and gradient-based optimization of neural networks that operate on articulated bodies. We derive the gradients of the contact solver using spatial algebra and the adjoint method. Our approach is an order of magnitude faster than autodiff tools. 

By only saving the initial states throughout the simulation process, our method reduces memory requirements by two orders of magnitude. We demonstrate the utility of efficient differentiable dynamics for articulated bodies in a variety of applications. We show that reinforcement learning with articulated systems can be accelerated using gradients provided by our method. In applications to control and inverse problems, gradient-based optimization enabled by our work accelerates convergence by more than an order of magnitude.

•    Stabilizing Equilibrium Models by Jacobian Regularization

Deep equilibrium networks (DEQs) are a new class of models that eschews traditional depth in favor of finding the fixed point of a single non-linear layer. These models have been shown to achieve performance competitive with the state-of-the-art deep networks while using significantly less memory. Yet they are also slower, brittle to architectural choices, and introduce potential instability to the model. In this paper, we propose a regularization scheme for DEQ models that explicitly regularizes the Jacobian of the fixed-point update equations to stabilize the learning of equilibrium models. 

We show that this regularization adds only minimal computational cost, significantly stabilizes the fixed-point convergence in both forward and backward passes, and scales well to high-dimensional, realistic domains (e.g., WikiText-103 language modeling and ImageNet classification). Using this method, we demonstrate, for the first time, an implicit-depth model that runs with approximately the same speed and level of performance as popular conventional deep networks such as ResNet-101, while still maintaining the constant memory footprint and architectural simplicity of DEQs.

•    Training Graph Neural Networks with 1000 Layers

Deep graph neural networks (GNNs) have achieved excellent results on various tasks on increasingly large graph datasets with millions of nodes and edges. However, memory complexity has become a major obstacle when training deep GNNs for practical applications due to the immense number of nodes, edges, and intermediate activations. To improve the scalability of GNNs, prior works propose smart graph sampling or partitioning strategies to train GNNs with a smaller set of nodes or sub-graphs. In this work, we study reversible connections, group convolutions, weight tying, and equilibrium models to advance the memory and parameter efficiency of GNNs. 

We find that reversible connections in combination with deep network architectures enable the training of overparameterized GNNs that significantly outperform existing methods on multiple datasets. Our models RevGNN-Deep (1001 layers with 80 channels each) and RevGNN-Wide (448 layers with 224 channels each) were both trained on a single commodity GPU and achieve an ROC-AUC of 87.74 ± 0.13 and 88.14 ± 0.15 on the ogbn-proteins dataset. To the best of our knowledge, RevGNN-Deep is the deepest GNN in the literature by one order of magnitude.

•    Accurate Post Training Quantization With Small Calibration Sets

Lately, post-training quantization methods have gained considerable attention, as they are simple to use, and require only a small unlabeled calibration set. This small dataset cannot be used to fine-tune the model without significant overfitting. Instead, these methods only use the calibration set to set the activations’ dynamic ranges. However, such methods always resulted in significant accuracy degradation, when used below 8-bits (except on small datasets). Here we aim to break the 8-bit barrier. 

To this end, we minimize the quantization errors of each layer or block separately by optimizing its parameters over the calibration set. We empirically demonstrate that this approach is: (1) much less susceptible to overfitting than the standard fine-tuning approaches, and can be used even on a very small calibration set; and (2) more powerful than previous methods, which only set the activations’ dynamic ranges. We suggest two flavors for our method, parallel and sequential aim for a fixed and flexible bitwidth allocation. 

For the latter, we demonstrate how to optimally allocate the bit-widths for each layer, while constraining accuracy degradation or model compression by proposing a novel integer programming formulation. Finally, we suggest model global statistics tuning, to correct biases introduced during quantization. Together, these methods yield state-of-the-art results for both vision and text models. For instance, on ResNet50, we obtain less than 1% accuracy degradation — with 4-bit weights and activations in all layers, but first and last. The suggested methods are two orders of magnitude faster than the traditional Quantize Aware Training approach used for lower than 8-bit quantization. We open-sourced our code