data encoder and decoder
type: insightlevel: medium

In deep learning, having a good and concise representation of data is crucial. Autoencoders help models learn how to automatically and effectively represent data. During the training process, an autoencoder uses an encoder to transform the input data into a compact representation and a decoder to reconstruct the original data from that compact representation. This process allows the autoencoder to learn how to compress important information from the data and discard unimportant information, resulting in a concise representation that focuses on important features.

To better understand autoencoders, let's also explore their internal components.

I. Autoencoder architecture

The architecture of an Autoencoder consists of three main components:

Figure 1

  • Encoder: This module is responsible for compressing the input data into an encoded representation, often referred to as the "Bottleneck," which is typically of lower dimensionality compared to the input data.

  • Bottleneck: This module contains the compressed knowledge representations (the output of the Encoder). It is the most crucial part of the network as it carries the features of the input data and can be used for tasks like image reconstruction or feature extraction.

  • Decoder: This module helps the network decode the compressed knowledge representations and reconstruct the data from its encoded form. The model learns by comparing the output of the Decoder with the original input (the input of the Encoder).

import torch
import torch.nn as nn
# Autoencoder model definition
class Autoencoder(nn.Module):
def __init__(self, encoding_dim):
super(Autoencoder, self).__init__()
self.encoder = nn.Sequential(
nn.Linear(784, 128),
nn.Linear(128, encoding_dim),
self.decoder = nn.Sequential(
nn.Linear(encoding_dim, 128),
nn.Linear(128, 784),
def forward(self, x):
encoded = self.encoder(x)
decoded = self.decoder(encoded)
return encoded, decoded

These three components work together in the Autoencoder architecture to learn efficient data representations and enable tasks such as data compression, reconstruction, or feature extraction.

So what are Autoencoders used for?

Looking at the illustrative image or the provided code snippet, we can see that Autoencoders are used for:

  • Dimensionality reduction: Autoencoders can be used to reduce the dimensionality of data. Dimensionality reduction helps to minimize the complexity and noise in the data, leading to faster processing and reduced storage space requirements.
  • Image or data generation: Autoencoders can be extended to generate new images or data. By training an autoencoder to learn how to reconstruct data, it can generate new data samples by randomly sampling from the compressed representation space.
  • Data denoising: Autoencoders have the capability to learn how to remove noise from data. By training an autoencoder on noisy and clean data pairs, it can learn to reconstruct the clean data from the noisy data.

II. Loss Function

In the Autoencoder model, the loss function is used to measure the difference between the original data and the reconstructed output of the Autoencoder. The goal is to minimize the loss function to achieve the most accurate reconstruction. There are several commonly used loss functions in Autoencoder, and here are a few examples:

  • Mean Squared Error (MSE): The MSE loss function calculates the average squared difference between the original data and the reconstructed output. It is computed by taking the mean of the squared differences for each data point.

  • Binary Cross Entropy (BCE): The BCE loss function is often used when the output of the Autoencoder is a binary probability distribution (e.g., Sigmoid output). It measures the difference between the predicted probability and the true label.

  • Mean Absolute Error (MAE): The MAE loss function calculates the sum of the absolute differences between the original data and the reconstructed output. It is commonly used when outliers can have a significant impact on the result.

  • Kullback-Leibler Divergence (KL Divergence): The KL Divergence loss function is often used in variations such as Variational Autoencoder (VAE). It measures the difference between two probability distributions.

The specific choice of loss function in the Autoencoder model depends on the type of data and the objective of the model. Selecting an appropriate loss function is an important part of ensuring effective learning and reconstruction of the data.

We have an article discussing common loss functions in deep learning that you can review here.

III. Hyperparameters

In the Autoencoder model, there are several important hyperparameters that need to be determined before training the model. Here are four key hyperparameters in Autoencoder:

  • Hidden layer size: This hyperparameter determines the number of nodes or the size of the hidden layers in the encoder and decoder of the Autoencoder. The number of hidden layers affects the learning capacity and representation of the model.

  • Code size: This refers to the size of the compressed representation vector (Bottleneck) in the Autoencoder. This hyperparameter determines the level of data compression and also affects the reconstruction and representation capabilities of the model.

  • Number of nodes per layer: The number of nodes on each layer determines the number of weights used in that layer. Typically, the number of nodes decreases gradually for each subsequent layer because the input of each layer is the output of the previous layer, and this input becomes smaller on each layer.

  • Reconstruction Loss: The loss function is an essential component in a neural network. The choice of the loss function depends on the input and output type that our model aims to achieve. For example, for image processing tasks, commonly preferred loss functions are Mean Squared Error (MSE) and L1 Loss. In the case of binary images like MNIST, Binary Cross Entropy is often a better choice.

These hyperparameters play a crucial role in determining the performance and behavior of the Autoencoder model. Proper tuning and selection of these hyperparameters are necessary to achieve the desired results.

IV. Summary

It can be seen that Autoencoder is an interesting group of neural network architectures used in various fields such as natural language processing, computer vision, and image processing. Although there are many other models used for representation learning nowadays, Autoencoder is still a good choice for many different problems. With the information provided by Bizfly Cloud, you have gained an understanding of what Autoencoder is and the benefits it brings to your work.

In our next article, we will introduce an intriguing variation of Autoencoder, so stay tuned.


An Introduction to Autoencoders: Everything You Need to Know