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Moderator : Lily Zhang

Thu 21 Jul 10:30 a.m. PDT — noon PDT


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Thu 21 July 10:30 - 10:35 PDT

A Context-Integrated Transformer-Based Neural Network for Auction Design

Zhijian Duan · Jingwu Tang · Yutong Yin · Zhe Feng · Xiang Yan · Manzil Zaheer · Xiaotie Deng

One of the central problems in auction design is developing an incentive-compatible mechanism that maximizes the auctioneer's expected revenue. While theoretical approaches have encountered bottlenecks in multi-item auctions, recently, there has been much progress on finding the optimal mechanism through deep learning. However, these works either focus on a fixed set of bidders and items, or restrict the auction to be symmetric. In this work, we overcome such limitations by factoring \emph{public} contextual information of bidders and items into the auction learning framework. We propose $\mathtt{CITransNet}$, a context-integrated transformer-based neural network for optimal auction design, which maintains permutation-equivariance over bids and contexts while being able to find asymmetric solutions. We show by extensive experiments that $\mathtt{CITransNet}$ can recover the known optimal solutions in single-item settings, outperform strong baselines in multi-item auctions, and generalize well to cases other than those in training.

Thu 21 July 10:35 - 10:40 PDT

Domain Adaptation for Time Series Forecasting via Attention Sharing

Xiaoyong Jin · Youngsuk Park · Danielle Robinson · Hao Wang · Yuyang Wang

Recently, deep neural networks have gained increasing popularity in the field of time series forecasting. A primary reason for their success is their ability to effectively capture complex temporal dynamics across multiple related time series. The advantages of these deep forecasters only start to emerge in the presence of a sufficient amount of data. This poses a challenge for typical forecasting problems in practice, where there is a limited number of time series or observations per time series, or both. To cope with this data scarcity issue, we propose a novel domain adaptation framework, Domain Adaptation Forecaster (DAF). DAF leverages statistical strengths from a relevant domain with abundant data samples (source) to improve the performance on the domain of interest with limited data (target). In particular, we use an attention-based shared module with a domain discriminator across domains and private modules for individual domains. We induce domain-invariant latent features (queries and keys) and retrain domain-specific features (values) simultaneously to enable joint training of forecasters on source and target domains. A main insight is that our design of aligning keys allows the target domain to leverage source time series even with different characteristics. Extensive experiments on various domains demonstrate that our proposed method outperforms state-of-the-art baselines on synthetic and real-world datasets, and ablation studies verify the effectiveness of our design choices.

Thu 21 July 10:40 - 10:45 PDT

Continuous-Time Modeling of Counterfactual Outcomes Using Neural Controlled Differential Equations

Nabeel Seedat · Fergus Imrie · Alexis Bellot · Zhaozhi Qian · Mihaela van der Schaar

Estimating counterfactual outcomes over time has the potential to unlock personalized healthcare by assisting decision-makers to answer "what-if" questions. Existing causal inference approaches typically consider regular, discrete-time intervals between observations and treatment decisions and hence are unable to naturally model irregularly sampled data, which is the common setting in practice. To handle arbitrary observation patterns, we interpret the data as samples from an underlying continuous-time process and propose to model its latent trajectory explicitly using the mathematics of controlled differential equations. This leads to a new approach, the Treatment Effect Neural Controlled Differential Equation (TE-CDE), that allows the potential outcomes to be evaluated at any time point. In addition, adversarial training is used to adjust for time-dependent confounding which is critical in longitudinal settings and is an added challenge not encountered in conventional time series. To assess solutions to this problem, we propose a controllable simulation environment based on a model of tumor growth for a range of scenarios with irregular sampling reflective of a variety of clinical scenarios. TE-CDE consistently outperforms existing approaches in all scenarios with irregular sampling.

Thu 21 July 10:45 - 10:50 PDT

Disentangling Disease-related Representation from Obscure for Disease Prediction

Chu-ran Wang · Fei Gao · Fandong Zhang · Fangwei Zhong · Yizhou Yu · Yizhou Wang

Disease-related representations play a crucial role in image-based disease prediction such as cancer diagnosis, due to its considerable generalization capacity. However, it is still a challenge to identify lesion characteristics in obscured images, as many lesions are obscured by other tissues. In this paper, to learn the representations for identifying obscured lesions, we propose a disentanglement learning strategy under the guidance of alpha blending generation in an encoder-decoder framework (DAB-Net). Specifically, we take mammogram mass benign/malignant classification as an example. In our framework, composite obscured mass images are generated by alpha blending and then explicitly disentangled into disease-related mass features and interference glands features. To achieve disentanglement learning, features of these two parts are decoded to reconstruct the mass and the glands with corresponding reconstruction losses, and only disease-related mass features are fed into the classifier for disease prediction. Experimental results on one public dataset DDSM and three in-house datasets demonstrate that the proposed strategy can achieve state-of-the-art performance. DAB-Net achieves substantial improvements of 3.9%∼4.4% AUC in obscured cases. Besides, the visualization analysis shows the model can better disentangle the mass and glands in the obscured image, suggesting the effectiveness of our solution in exploring the hidden characteristics in this challenging problem.

Thu 21 July 10:50 - 10:55 PDT

Design-Bench: Benchmarks for Data-Driven Offline Model-Based Optimization

Brandon Trabucco · Xinyang Geng · Aviral Kumar · Sergey Levine

Black-box model-based optimization (MBO) problems, where the goal is to find a design input that maximizes an unknown objective function, are ubiquitous in a wide range of domains, such as the design of proteins, DNA sequences, aircraft, and robots. Solving model-based optimization problems typically requires actively querying the unknown objective function on design proposals, which means physically building the candidate molecule, aircraft, or robot, testing it, and storing the result. This process can be expensive and time consuming, and one might instead prefer to optimize for the best design using only the data one already has. This setting---called offline MBO---poses substantial and different algorithmic challenges than more commonly studied online techniques. A number of recent works have demonstrated success with offline MBO for high-dimensional optimization problems using high-capacity deep neural networks. However, the lack of standardized benchmarks in this emerging field is making progress difficult to track. To address this, we present Design-Bench, a benchmark for offline MBO with a unified evaluation protocol and reference implementations of recent methods. Our benchmark includes a suite of diverse and realistic tasks derived from real-world optimization problems in biology, materials science, and robotics that present distinct challenges for offline MBO. Our benchmark and reference implementations are released at and

Thu 21 July 10:55 - 11:00 PDT

Blocks Assemble! Learning to Assemble with Large-Scale Structured Reinforcement Learning

Seyed Kamyar Seyed Ghasemipour · Satoshi Kataoka · Byron David · Daniel Freeman · Shixiang Gu · Igor Mordatch

Assembly of multi-part physical structures is both a valuable end product for autonomous robotics, as well as a valuable diagnostic task for open-ended training of embodied intelligent agents. We introduce a naturalistic physics-based environment with a set of connectable magnet blocks inspired by children’s toy kits. The objective is to assemble blocks into a succession of target blueprints. Despite the simplicity of this objective, the compositional nature of building diverse blueprints from a set of blocks leads to an explosion of complexity in structures that agents encounter. Furthermore, assembly stresses agents' multi-step planning, physical reasoning, and bimanual coordination. We find that the combination of large-scale reinforcement learning and graph-based policies-- surprisingly without any additional complexity -- is an effective recipe for training agents that not only generalize to complex unseen blueprints in a zero-shot manner, but even operate in a reset-free setting without being trained to do so. Through extensive experiments, we highlight the importance of large-scale training, structured representations, contributions of multi-task vs. single-task learning, as well as the effects of curriculums, and discuss qualitative behaviors of trained agents. Our accompanying project webpage can be found at:

Thu 21 July 11:00 - 11:05 PDT

Learning of Cluster-based Feature Importance for Electronic Health Record Time-series

Henrique Aguiar · Mauro Santos · Peter Watkinson · Tingting Zhu

The recent availability of Electronic Health Records (EHR) has allowed for the development of algorithms predicting inpatient risk of deterioration and trajectory evolution. However, prediction of disease progression with EHR is challenging since these data are sparse, heterogeneous, multi-dimensional, and multi-modal time-series. As such, clustering is regularly used to identify similar groups within the patient cohort to improve prediction. Current models have shown some success in obtaining cluster representations of patient trajectories. However, they i) fail to obtain clinical interpretability for each cluster, and ii) struggle to learn meaningful cluster numbers in the context of imbalanced distribution of disease outcomes. We propose a supervised deep learning model to cluster EHR data based on the identification of clinically understandable phenotypes with regard to both outcome prediction and patient trajectory. We introduce novel loss functions to address the problems of class imbalance and cluster collapse, and furthermore propose a feature-time attention mechanism to identify cluster-based phenotype importance across time and feature dimensions. We tested our model in two datasets corresponding to distinct medical settings. Our model yielded added interpretability to cluster formation and outperformed benchmarks by at least 4% in relevant metrics.

Thu 21 July 11:05 - 11:25 PDT

Do Differentiable Simulators Give Better Policy Gradients?

Hyung Ju Suh · Max Simchowitz · Kaiqing Zhang · Russ Tedrake

Differentiable simulators promise faster computation time for reinforcement learning by replacing zeroth-order gradient estimates of a stochastic objective with an estimate based on first-order gradients. However, it is yet unclear what factors decide the performance of the two estimators on complex landscapes that involve long-horizon planning and control on physical systems, despite the crucial relevance of this question for the utility of differentiable simulators. We show that characteristics of certain physical systems, such as stiffness or discontinuities, may compromise the efficacy of the first-order estimator, and analyze this phenomenon through the lens of bias and variance. We additionally propose an $\alpha$-order gradient estimator, with $\alpha \in [0,1]$, which correctly utilizes exact gradients to combine the efficiency of first-order estimates with the robustness of zero-order methods. We demonstrate the pitfalls of traditional estimators and the advantages of the $\alpha$-order estimator on some numerical examples.

Thu 21 July 11:25 - 11:30 PDT

Adaptive Conformal Predictions for Time Series

Margaux Zaffran · Olivier FERON · Yannig Goude · julie Josse · Aymeric Dieuleveut

Uncertainty quantification of predictive models is crucial in decision-making problems. Conformal prediction is a general and theoretically sound answer. However, it requires exchangeable data, excluding time series. While recent works tackled this issue, we argue that Adaptive Conformal Inference (ACI, Gibbs & Candès, 2021), developed for distribution-shift time series, is a good procedure for time series with general dependency. We theoretically analyse the impact of the learning rate on its efficiency in the exchangeable and auto-regressive case. We propose a parameter-free method, AgACI, that adaptively builds upon ACI based on online expert aggregation. We lead extensive fair simulations against competing methods that advocate for ACI's use in time series. We conduct a real case study: electricity price forecasting. The proposed aggregation algorithm provides efficient prediction intervals for day-ahead forecasting. All the code and data to reproduce the experiments are made available on GitHub.

Thu 21 July 11:30 - 11:35 PDT

Language Models as Zero-Shot Planners: Extracting Actionable Knowledge for Embodied Agents

Wenlong Huang · Pieter Abbeel · Deepak Pathak · Igor Mordatch

Can world knowledge learned by large language models (LLMs) be used to act in interactive environments? In this paper, we investigate the possibility of grounding high-level tasks, expressed in natural language (e.g. “make breakfast”), to a chosen set of actionable steps (e.g. “open fridge”). While prior work focused on learning from explicit step-by-step examples of how to act, we surprisingly find that if pre-trained LMs are large enough and prompted appropriately, they can effectively decompose high-level tasks into mid-level plans without any further training. However, the plans produced naively by LLMs often cannot map precisely to admissible actions. We propose a procedure that conditions on existing demonstrations and semantically translates the plans to admissible actions. Our evaluation in the recent VirtualHome environment shows that the resulting method substantially improves executability over the LLM baseline. The conducted human evaluation reveals a trade-off between executability and correctness but shows a promising sign towards extracting actionable knowledge from language models.

Thu 21 July 11:35 - 11:40 PDT

Rethinking Graph Neural Networks for Anomaly Detection

Jianheng Tang · Jiajin Li · Ziqi Gao · Jia Li

Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) are widely applied for graph anomaly detection. As one of the key components for GNN design is to select a tailored spectral filter, we take the first step towards analyzing anomalies via the lens of the graph spectrum. Our crucial observation is the existence of anomalies will lead to the right-shift' phenomenon, that is, the spectral energy distribution concentrates less on low frequencies and more on high frequencies. This fact motivates us to propose the Beta Wavelet Graph Neural Network (BWGNN). Indeed, BWGNN has spectral and spatial localized band-pass filters to better handle theright-shift' phenomenon in anomalies. We demonstrate the effectiveness of BWGNN on four large-scale anomaly detection datasets. Our code and data are released at

Thu 21 July 11:40 - 11:45 PDT

Fast Aquatic Swimmer Optimization with Differentiable Projective Dynamics and Neural Network Hydrodynamic Models

Elvis Nava · John Zhang · Mike Yan Michelis · Tao Du · Pingchuan Ma · Benjamin F. Grewe · Wojciech Matusik · Robert Katzschmann

Aquatic locomotion is a classic fluid-structure interaction (FSI) problem of interest to biologists and engineers. Solving the fully coupled FSI equations for incompressible Navier-Stokes and finite elasticity is computationally expensive. Optimizing robotic swimmer design within such a system generally involves cumbersome, gradient-free procedures on top of the already costly simulation.To address this challenge we present a novel, fully differentiable hybrid approach to FSI that combines a 2D direct numerical simulation for the deformable solid structure of the swimmer and a physics-constrained neural network surrogate to capture hydrodynamic effects of the fluid.For the deformable solid simulation of the swimmer's body, we use state-of-the-art techniques from the field of computer graphics to speed up the finite-element method (FEM). For the fluid simulation, we use a U-Net architecture trained with a physics-based loss function to predict the flow field at each time step. The pressure and velocity field outputs from the neural network are sampled around the boundary of our swimmer using an immersed boundary method (IBM) to compute its swimming motion accurately and efficiently.We demonstrate the computational efficiency and differentiability of our hybrid simulator on a 2D carangiform swimmer. Due to differentiability, the simulator can be used for computational design of controls for soft bodies immersed in fluids via direct gradient-based optimization.

Thu 21 July 11:45 - 11:50 PDT

Proving Theorems using Incremental Learning and Hindsight Experience Replay

Eser Aygün · Ankit Anand · Laurent Orseau · Xavier Glorot · Stephen McAleer · Vlad Firoiu · Lei Zhang · Doina Precup · Shibl Mourad

Traditional automated theorem proving systems for first-order logic depend on speed-optimized search and many handcrafted heuristics designed to work over a wide range of domains. Machine learning approaches in the literature either depend on these traditional provers to bootstrap themselves, by leveraging these heuristics, or can struggle due to limited existing proof data. The latter issue can be explained by the lack of a smooth difficulty gradient in theorem proving datasets; large gaps in difficulty between different theorems can make training harder or even impossible. In this paper, we adapt the idea of hindsight experience replay from reinforcement learning to the automated theorem proving domain, so as to use the intermediate data generated during unsuccessful proof attempts. We build a first-order logic prover by disabling all the smart clause-scoring heuristics of the state-of-the-art E prover and replacing them with a clause-scoring neural network learned by using hindsight experience replay in an incremental learning setting. Clauses are represented as graphs and presented to transformer networks with spectral features. We show that provers trained in this way can outperform previous machine learning approaches and compete with the state of the art heuristic-based theorem prover E in its best configuration, on the popular benchmarks MPTP2078, M2k and Mizar40. The proofs generated by our algorithm are also almost always significantly shorter than E’s proofs.

Thu 21 July 11:50 - 11:55 PDT

Discovering Generalizable Spatial Goal Representations via Graph-based Active Reward Learning

Aviv Netanyahu · Tianmin Shu · Josh Tenenbaum · Pulkit Agrawal

In this work, we consider one-shot imitation learning for object rearrangement tasks, where an AI agent needs to watch a single expert demonstration and learn to perform the same task in different environments. To achieve a strong generalization, the AI agent must infer the spatial goal specification for the task. However, there can be multiple goal specifications that fit the given demonstration. To address this, we propose a reward learning approach, Graph-based Equivalence Mappings (GEM), that can discover spatial goal representations that are aligned with the intended goal specification, enabling successful generalization in unseen environments. Specifically, GEM represents a spatial goal specification by a reward function conditioned on i) a graph indicating important spatial relationships between objects and ii) state equivalence mappings for each edge in the graph indicating invariant properties of the corresponding relationship. GEM combines inverse reinforcement learning and active reward learning to efficiently improve the reward function by utilizing the graph structure and domain randomization enabled by the equivalence mappings. We conducted experiments with simulated oracles and with human subjects. The results show that GEM can drastically improve the generalizability of the learned goal representations over strong baselines.

Thu 21 July 11:55 - 12:00 PDT

Neural Inverse Kinematic

Raphael Bensadoun · Shir Gur · Nitsan Blau · Lior Wolf

Inverse kinematic (IK) methods recover the parameters of the joints, given the desired position of selected elements in the kinematic chain. While the problem is well-defined and low-dimensional, it has to be solved rapidly, accounting for multiple possible solutions. In this work, we propose a neural IK method that employs the hierarchical structure of the problem to sequentially sample valid joint angles conditioned on the desired position and on the preceding joints along the chain. In our solution, a hypernetwork $f$ recovers the parameters of multiple primary networks {$g_1,g_2,\dots,g_N$, where $N$ is the number of joints}, such that each $g_i$ outputs a distribution of possible joint angles, and is conditioned on the sampled values obtained from the previous primary networks $g_j, j