A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – VI – classification by activation patterns and the role of the CNN’s MLP part

I continue with my series on a simple CNN used upon the MNIST dataset.

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – V – about the difference of activation patterns and features
A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – IV – Visualizing the activation output of convolutional layers and maps
A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – III – inclusion of a learning-rate scheduler, momentum and a L2-regularizer
A simple CNN for the MNIST datasets – II – building the CNN with Keras and a first test
A simple CNN for the MNIST datasets – I – CNN basics

In the last article I discussed the following points:

  • The series of convolutional transformations, which a CNN applies to its input, eventually leads to abstract representations in low dimensional parameter spaces, called maps. In the case of our CNN we got 128 (3x3)-maps at the last convolutional layer. 3x3 indeed means a very low resolution.
  • We saw that the transformations would NOT produce results on the eventual maps which could be interpreted in the sense of figurative elements of depicted numbers, such as straight lines, circles or bows. Instead, due to pooling layers, lines and curved line elements obviously experience a fast dissolution during propagation through the various Conv layers. Whilst the first Conv layer still gives fair representations of e.g. a "4", line-like structures get already unclear at the second Conv layer and more or less disappear at the maps of the last convolutional layer.
  • This does not mean that a map on a deep convolutional layer does not react to some specific pattern within the pixel data of an input image. We called such patterns OIPs in last article and we were careful to describe them as geometrical correlations of pixels - and not conceptual entities. The sequence of convolutions which makes up a map on a deep convolutional layer corresponds to a specific combination of filters applied to the image data. This led us to the the theoretical idea that a map may indeed select a specific OIP in an input image and indicate the existence of such a OIP pattern by some activation pattern of the "neurons" within the map. However, we have no clue at the moment what such OIPs may look like and whether they correspond to conceptual entities which other authors usually call "features".
  • We saw that the common elements of the maps of multiple images of a handwritten "4" correspond to point-like activations within specific low dimensional maps on the output side of the last convolutional layer.
  • The activations seem to form abstract patterns across the maps of the last convolutional layer. These patterns, which we called FCPs, seem to support classification decisions, which the MLP-part of the CNN has to make.

So, at our present level of the analysis of a CNN, we cannot talk in a well founded way about "features" in the sense of conceptual entities. We got, however, the impression that eventual abstractions of some patterns which are present in MNIST images of different digits lead to FCP patterns across maps which allow for a classification of the images (with respect to the represented digits). We identified at least some common elements across the eventual maps of 3 different images of handwritten "4"s.

But it is really this simple? Can we by just looking for visible patterns in the activation output of the last convolutional layer already discriminate between different digits?

In this article I want to show that this is NOT the case. To demonstrate this we shall look at the image of a "4" which could also be almost classified to represent a "9". We shall see

  • that the detection of clear unique patterns becomes really difficult when we look at the representations of "4"s which almost resemble a "9" - at least from a human point of view;
  • that directly visible patterns at the last convolutional layer may not contain sufficiently clear information for a classification;
  • that the MLP part of our CNN nevertheless detects patterns after a linear transformation - i.e. after a linear combination of the outputs of the last Conv layer - which are not directly evident for human eyes. These "hidden" patterns do, however, allow for a rather solid classification.

What have "4"s in common after three convolutional transformations?

As in the last article I took three clear "4" images

and compared the activation output after three convolutional transformations - i.e. at the output side of the last Conv layer which we named "Conv2D_3":

The red circles indicate common points in the resulting 128 maps which we do not find in representations of three clear "9"s (see below). The yellow circles indicate common patterns which, however, appear in some representations of a "9".

What have "9"s in common after three convolutional transformations?

Now let us look at the same for three clear "9"s:

 

A comparison gives the following common features of "9"s on the third Conv2D layer:

We again get the impression that enough unique features seem to exist on the maps for "4"s and "9"s, respectively, to distinguish between images of these numbers. But is it really so simple?

Intermezzo: Some useful steps to reproduce results

You certainly do not want to perform a training all the time when you want to analyze predictions at certain layers for some selected MNIST images. And you may also need the same "X_train", "X_test" sets to identify one and the same image by a defined number. Remember: In the Python code which I presented in a previous article for the setup for the data samples no unique number would be given due to initial shuffling.

Thus, you may need to perform a training run and then save the model as well as your X_train, y_train and X_test, y_test datasets. Note that we have transformed the data already in a reasonable tensor form which Keras expects. We also had already used one-hot-labels. The transformed sets were called "train_imgs", "test_imgs", "train_labels", "test_labels", "y_train", "y_test"

The following code saves the model (here "cnn") at the end of a training and loads it again:

# save a full model 
cnn.save('cnn.h5')

#load a full model  
cnnx = models.load_model('cnn.h5')        

On a Linux system the default path is typically that one where you keep your Jupyter notebooks.

The following statements save the sets of tensor-like image data in Numpy compatible data (binary) structures:

# Save the data

from numpy import save
save('train_imgs.npy', train_imgs) 
save('test_imgs.npy', test_imgs) 
save('train_labels.npy', train_labels) 
save('test_labels.npy', test_labels) 
save('y_train.npy', y_train) 
save('y_test.npy', y_test) 

We reload the data by

# Load train, test image data (in tensor form) 

from numpy import load
train_imgs   = load('train_imgs.npy')
test_imgs    = load('test_imgs.npy')
train_labels = load('train_labels.npy')
test_labels  = load('test_labels.npy')
y_train      = load('y_train.npy')
y_test       = load('y_test.npy')

Be careful to save only once - and not to set up and save your training and test data again in a pure analysis session! I recommend to use different notebooks for training and later analysis. If you put all your code in just one notebook you may accidentally run Jupyter cells again, which you do not want to run during analysis sessions.

What happens for unclear representations/images of a "4"?

When we trained a pure MLP on the MNIST dataset we had a look at the confusion matrix:
A simple Python program for an ANN to cover the MNIST dataset – XI – confusion matrix.
We saw that the MLP e.g. confused "5"s with "9s", "9"s with "4"s, "2"s with "7"s, "8"s with "5"s - and vice versa. We got the highest confusion numbers for the misjudgement of badly written "4"s and "9"s.

Let us look at a regular 4 and two "4"s which with some good will could also be interpreted as representations of a "9"; the first one has a closed upper area - and there are indeed some representations of "9"s in the MNIST dataset which look similar. The second "4" in my view is even closer to a "9":

 

Now, if we wanted to look out for the previously discussed "unique" features of "4"s and "9s" we would get a bit lost:

The first image is for a clear "4". The last two are the abstractions for our two newly chosen unclear "4"s in the order given above.

You see: Many of our seemingly "unique features" for a "4" on the third Conv-level are no longer or not fully present for our second "4"; so we would be rather insecure if we had to judge the abstraction as a viable pattern for a "4". We would expect that this "human" uncertainty also shows up in a probability distribution at the output layer of our CNN.

But, our CNN (including its MLP-part) has no doubt about the classification of the last sample as a "4". We just look at the prediction output of our model:

# Predict for a single image 
# ****************************
num_img = 1302
ay_sgl_img = test_imgs[num_img:num_img+1]
print(ay_sgl_img.shape)
# load last cell for the next statement to work 
#prob = cnn_pred.predict_proba(ay_sgl_img, batch_size=1)
#print(prob) 
prob1 = cnn_pred.predict(ay_sgl_img, batch_size=1)
print(prob1) 

[[3.61540742e-07 1.04205284e-07 1.69877489e-06 1.15337198e-08
  9.35641170e-01 3.53500056e-08 1.29525617e-07 2.28584581e-03
  2.59062881e-06 6.20680153e-02]]

93.5% probability for a "4"! A very clear discrimination! How can that be, given the - at first sight - seemingly unclear pattern situation at the third activation layer for our strange 4?

The MLP-part of the CNN "sees" things we humans do not see directly

We shall not forget that the MLP-part of the CNN plays an important role in our game. It reduces the information of the last 128 maps (3x3x128 = 1152) values down to 100 node values with the help of 115200 distinguished weights for related connections. This means there is a lot of fine-tuned information extraction and information compactification going on at the border of the CNN's MLP part - a transformation step which is too complex to grasp directly.

It is the transformation of all the 128x3x3-map-data into all 100 nodes via a linear combination which makes things difficult to understand. 115200 optimized weights leave enough degrees of freedom to detect combined patterns in the activation data which are more complex and less obvious than the point-like structures we encircled in the images of the maps

So, it is interesting to visualize and see how the MLP part of our CNN reacts to the activations of the last convolutional layers. Maybe we find some more intriguing patterns there, which discriminate "4"s from "9"s and explain the rather clear probability evaluation.

Visualization of the output of the dense layers of the CNN's MLP-part

We need to modify some parts of our code for creating images of the activation outputs of convolutional layers to be able to produce equally reasonable images for the output of the dense MLP layers, too. These modifications are simple. We distinguish between the types of layers by their names: When the name contains "dense" we execute a slightly different code. The changes affect just the function "img_grid_of_layer_activation()" previously discussed as the contents of a Jupyter "cell 9":

  
# Function to plot the activations of a layer 
# -------------------------------------------
# Adaption of a method originally designed by F.Chollet 

def img_grid_of_layer_activation(d_img_sets, model_fname='cnn.h5', layer_name='', img_set="test_imgs", num_img=8, 
                                 scale_img_vals=False):
    '''
    Input parameter: 
    -----------------
    d_img_sets: dictionary with available img_sets, which contain img tensors (presently: train_imgs, test_imgs)  
    model_fname: Name of the file containing the models data 
    layer_name: name of the layer for which we plot the activation; the name must be known to the Keras model (string) 
    image_set: The set of images we pick a specific image from (string)
    num_img: The sample number of the image in the chosen set (integer) 
    scale_img_vals: False: Do NOT scale (standardize) and clip (!) the pixel values. True: Standardize the values. (Boolean)
        
    Hints: 
    -----------------
    We assume quadratic images - in case of dense layers we assume a size of 1 
    '''
    
    # Load a model 
    cnnx = models.load_model(model_fname)
    
    # get the output of a certain named layer - this includes all maps
    # https://keras.io/getting_started/faq/#how-can-i-obtain-the-output-of-an-intermediate-layer-feature-extraction
    cnnx_layer_output = cnnx.get_layer(layer_name).output

    # build a new model for input "cnnx.input" and output "output_of_layer"
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    # Keras knows the required connections and intermediat layers from its tensorflow graphs - otherwise we get an error 
    # The new model can make predictions for a suitable input in the required tensor form   
    mod_lay = models.Model(inputs=cnnx.input, outputs=cnnx_layer_output)
    
    # Pick the input image from a set of respective tensors 
    if img_set not in d_img_sets:
        print("img set " + img_set + " is not known!")
        sys.exit()
    # slicing to get te right tensor 
    ay_img = d_img_sets[img_set][num_img:(num_img+1)]
    
    # Use the tensor data as input for a prediction of model "mod_lay" 
    lay_activation = mod_lay.predict(ay_img) 
    print("shape of layer " + layer_name + " : ", lay_activation.shape )
    
    # number of maps of the selected layer 
    n_maps   = lay_activation.shape[-1]
    print("n_maps = ", n_maps)

    # size of an image - we assume quadratic images 
    # in the case  of "dense" layers we assume that the img size is just 1 (1 node)    
    if "dense" in layer_name:
        img_size = 1
    else: 
        img_size = lay_activation.shape[1]
    print("img_size = ", img_size)

    # Only for testing: plot an image for a selected  
    # map_nr = 1 
    #plt.matshow(lay_activation[0,:,:,map_nr], cmap='viridis')

    # We work with a grid of images for all maps  
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~----------------------------
    # the grid is build top-down (!) with num_cols and num_rows
    # dimensions for the grid 
    num_imgs_per_row = 8 
    num_cols = num_imgs_per_row
    num_rows = n_maps // num_imgs_per_row
    #print("img_size = ", img_size, " num_cols = ", num_cols, " num_rows = ", num_rows)

    # grid 
    dim_hor = num_imgs_per_row * img_size
    dim_ver = num_rows * img_size
    img_grid = np.zeros( (dim_ver, dim_hor) )   # horizontal, vertical matrix  
    print("shape of img grid = ", img_grid.shape)

    # double loop to fill the grid 
    n = 0
    for row in range(num_rows):
        for col in range(num_cols):
            n += 1
            #print("n = ", n, "row = ", row, " col = ", col)
            # in case of a dense layer the shape of the tensor like output 
            # is different in comparison to Conv2D layers  
            if "dense" in layer_name:
                present_img = lay_activation[ :, row*num_imgs_per_row + col]
            else: 
                present_img = lay_activation[0, :, :, row*num_imgs_per_row + col]
            
            # standardization and clipping of the img data  
            if scale_img_vals:
                present_img -= present_img.mean()
                if present_img.std() != 0.0: # standard deviation
                    present_img /= present_img.std()
                    #present_img /= (present_img.std() +1.e-8)
                    present_img *= 64
                    present_img += 128
                present_img = np.clip(present_img, 0, 255).astype('uint8') # limit values to 255

            # place the img-data at the right space and position in the grid 
            # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            # the following is only used if we had reversed vertical direction by accident  
            #img_grid[row*img_size:(row+1)*(img_size), col*img_size:(col+1)*(img_size)] = np.flip(present_img, 0)
            img_grid[row*img_size:(row+1)*(img_size), col*img_size:(col+1)*(img_size)] = present_img
 
    return img_grid, img_size, dim_hor, dim_ver 

 

You certainly detect the two small changes in comparison to the code for Jupyter cell 9 of the article
A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – IV – Visualizing the output of convolutional layers and maps.

However, there remains one open question: We were too lazy in the coding discussed in previous articles to create our own names names for the dense layers. This is, however, no major problem: Keras creates its own names - if we do not define our own layer names when constructing a CNN model. Where do we get these default names from? Well, from the model's summary:

cnn_pred.summary()

Model: "sequential_7"
_________________________________________________________________
Layer (type)                 Output Shape              Param #   
=================================================================
Conv2D_1 (Conv2D)            (None, 26, 26, 32)        320       
_________________________________________________________________
Max_Pool_1 (MaxPooling2D)    (None, 13, 13, 32)        0         
_________________________________________________________________
Conv2D_2 (Conv2D)            (None, 11, 11, 64)        18496     
_________________________________________________________________
Max_Pool_2 (MaxPooling2D)    (None, 5, 5, 64)          0         
_________________________________________________________________
Conv2D_3 (Conv2D)            (None, 3, 3, 128)         73856     
_________________________________________________________________
flatten_7 (Flatten)          (None, 1152)              0         
_________________________________________________________________
dense_14 (Dense)             (None, 100)               115300    
_________________________________________________________________
dense_15 (Dense)             (None, 10)                1010      
=================================================================
Total params: 208,982
Trainable params: 208,982
Non-trainable params: 0
_________________________________________________________________

Our first MLP layer with 100 nodes obviously got the name "dense_14".

With our modification and the given name we can now call Jupyter "cell 10" as before:

  
# Plot the img grid of a layers activation 
# ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

# global dict for the image sets 
d_img_sets= {'train_imgs':train_imgs, 'test_imgs':test_imgs}

# layer - pick one of the names which you defined for your model 
layer_name = "dense_14"

# choose a image_set and an img number 
img_set = "test_imgs"

# clear 4 
num_img = 1816

#unclear 4
#num_img = 1270
#num_img = 1302

#clear 9 
#num_img = 1249
#num_img = 1410
#num_img = 1858


# Two figures 
# -----------
fig1 = plt.figure(1, figsize=(5,5))  # figure for the input img
fig2 = plt.figure(2)  # figure for the activation outputs of th emaps 

fig1 = plt.figure( figsize=(5,5) )
ay_img = test_imgs[num_img:num_img+1]
#plt.imshow(ay_img[0,:,:,0], cmap=plt.cm.binary)
plt.imshow(ay_img[0,:,:,0], cmap=plt.cm.jet)


# getting the img grid 
img_grid, img_size, dim_hor, dim_ver = img_grid_of_layer_activation(
                                        d_img_sets, model_fname='cnn.h5', layer_name=layer_name, 
                                        img_set=img_set, num_img=num_img, 
                                        scale_img_vals=False)
# Define reasonable figure dimensions by scaling the grid-size  
scale = 1.6 / (img_size)
fig2 = plt.figure( figsize=(scale * dim_hor, scale * dim_ver) )
#axes 
ax = fig2.gca()
ax.set_xlim(-0.5,dim_hor-1.0)
ax.set_ylim(dim_ver-1.0, -0.5)  # the grid is oriented top-down 
#ax.set_ylim(-0,dim_ver-1.0) # normally wrong

# setting labels - tick positions and grid lines  
ax.set_xticks(np.arange(img_size-0.5, dim_hor, img_size))
ax.set_yticks(np.arange(img_size-0.5, dim_ver, img_size))
ax.set_xticklabels([]) # no labels should be printed 
ax.set_yticklabels([])

# preparing the grid 
plt.grid(b=True, linestyle='-', linewidth='.5', color='#ddd', alpha=0.7)

# color-map 
#cmap = 'viridis'
#cmap = 'inferno'
cmap = 'jet'
#cmap = 'magma'

plt.imshow(img_grid, aspect='auto', cmap=cmap)

 

In the output picture each node will be represented by a colored rectangle.

Visualization of the output for clear "4"s at the first dense MLP-layer

The following picture displays the activation values for three clear "4"s at the first dense MLP layer:

I encircled again some of the nodes which carry some seemingly "unique" information for representations of the digit "4".

For clear "9"s we instead get:

Hey, there are some clear differences: Especially, the diagonal pattern (vertically a bit below the middle and horizontally a bit to the left) and the activation at the first node (upper left) seem to be typical for representations of a "9".

Our unclear "4" representations at the first MLP layer

Now, what do we get for our two unclear "4"s?

I think that we would guess with confidence that our first image clearly corresponds to a "4". With the second one we would be a bit more careful - but the lack of the mentioned diagonal structure with sufficiently high values (orange to yellow on the "jet"-colormap) would guide us to a "4". Plus the presence of a relatively high value at a node present at the lower right which is nowhere in the "9" representations. Plus too small values at the upper left corner. Plus some other aspects - some nodes have a value where all the clear "9"s do not have anything.

We should not forget that there are more than 1000 weights again to emphasize some combinations and suppress others on the way to the output layer of the CNN's MLP part.

Conclusion

Information which is still confusing at the last convolutional layer - at least from a human visual perspective - can be "clarified" by a combination of the information across all (128) maps. This is done by the MLP transformations (linear matrix plus non-linear activation function) which produce the output of the 1st dense layer.

Thus and of course, the dense layers of the MLP-part of a CNN play an important role in the classification process: The MLP may detect patterns in the the combined information of all available maps at the last convolutional layer which the human eye may have difficulties with.

In the sense of a critical review of the results of our last article we can probably say: NOT the individual points, which we marked in the images of the maps at the last convolutional layer, did the classification trick; it was the MLP analysis of the interplay of the information across all maps which in the end lead the CNN to an obviously correct classification.

Common features in calculated maps for MNIST images are nice, but without an analysis of a MLP across all maps they are not sufficient to solve the classification problem. So: Do not underestimate the MLP part of a CNN!

In the next article

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – VII – outline of steps to visualize image patterns which trigger filter maps

I shall outline some required steps to visualize the patterns or structures within an input image which a specific CNN map reacts to. This will help us in the end to get a deeper understanding of the relation between FCPs and OIPs. I shall also present some first images of such OIP patterns or "features" which activate certain maps of our trained CNN.

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – V – about the difference of activation patterns and features

In my last article of my introductory series on "Convolutional Neural Networks" [CNNs] I described how we can visualize the output of different maps at convolutional (or pooling) layers of a CNN.

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – IV – Visualizing the activation output of convolutional layers and maps
A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – III – inclusion of a learning-rate scheduler, momentum and a L2-regularizer
A simple CNN for the MNIST datasets – II – building the CNN with Keras and a first test
A simple CNN for the MNIST datasets – I – CNN basics

We are now well equipped to look a bit closer at the maps of a trained CNN. The output of the last convolutional layer is of course of special interest: It is fed (in the form of a flattened input vector) into the MLP-part of the CNN for a classification analysis. As an MLP detects "patterns" the question arises whether we actually can see common "patterns" in the visualized maps of different images belonging to the same class. In our case we shall have a look at the maps of different MNIST images of a handwritten "4".

Note for my readers, 20.08.2020:
This article has recently been revised and completely rewritten. It required a much more careful description of what we mean by "patterns" and "features" - and what we can say about them when looking at images of activation outputs on higher convolutional layers. I also postponed a thorough "philosophical" argumentation against a humanized usage of the term "features" to a later article in this series.

Objectives

We saw already in the last article that the images of maps get more and more abstract when we move to higher convolutional layers - i.e. layers deeper inside a CNN. At the same time we loose resolution due to intermediate pooling operations. It is quite obvious that we cannot see much of any original "features" of a handwritten "4" any longer in a (3x3)-map, whose values are produced by a sequence of complex transformation operations.

Nevertheless people talk about "feature detection" performed by CNNs - and they refer to "features" in a very concrete and descriptive way (e.g. "eyes", "spectacles", "bows"). How can this be? What is the connection of abstract activation patterns in low resolution maps to original "features" of an image? What is meant when CNN experts claim that neurons of higher CNN layers are allegedly able to "detect features"?

We cannot give a full answer, yet. We still need some more Python programs tools. But, wat we are going to do in this article are three things:

  1. Objective 1: I will try to describe the assumed relation between maps and "features". To start with I shall make a clear distinction between "feature" patterns in input images and patterns in and across the maps of convolutional layers. The rest of the discussion will remain a bit theoretical; but it will use the fact that convolutions at higher layers combine filtered results in specific ways to create new maps. For the time being we cannot do more. We shall actually look at visualizations of "features" in forthcoming articles of this series. Promised.
  2. Objective 2: We follow three different input images, each representing a "4", as they get processed from one convolutional layer to the next convolutional layer of our CNN. We shall compare the resulting outputs of all feature maps at each convolutional layer.
  3. Objective 3: We try to identify common "patterns" for our different "4" images across the maps of the highest convolutional layer.

We shall visualize each "map" by an image - reflecting the values calculated by the CNN-filters for all points in each map. Note that an individual value at a map point results from adding up many weighted values provided by the maps of lower layers and feeding the result into an activation function. We speak of "activation" values or "map activations". So our 2-nd objective is to follow the map activations of an input image up to the highest convolutional layer. An interesting question will be if the chain of complex transformation operations leads to visually detectable similarities across the map outputs for the different images of a "4".

The eventual classification of a CNN is done by its embedded MLP which analyzes information collected at the last convolutional layer. Regarding this input to the MLP we can make the following statements:

The convolutions and pooling operations project information of relatively large parts of the original image into a representation space of very low dimensionality. Each map on the third layer provides a 3x3 value tensor, only. However, we combine the points of all (128) maps together in a flattened input vector to the MLP. This input vector consists of more nodes than the original image itself.

Thus the sequence of convolutional and pooling layers in the end transforms the original images into another representation space of somewhat higher dimensionality (9x128 vs. 28x28). This transformation is associated with the hope that in the new representation space a MLP may find patterns which allow for a better classification of the original images than a direct analysis of the image data. This explains objective 3: We try to play the MLPs role by literally looking at the eventual map activations. We try to find out which patterns are representative for a "4" by comparing the activations of different "4" images of the MNIST dataset.

Enumbering the layers

To distinguish a higher Convolutional [Conv] or Pooling [Pool] layer from a lower one we give them a number "Conv_N" or "Pool_N".

Our CNN has a sequence of

  • Conv_1 (32 26x26 maps filtering the input image),
  • Pool_1 (32 13x13 maps with half the resolution due to max-pooling),
  • Conv_2 (64 11x11 maps filtering combined maps of Pool_1),
  • Pool_2 (64 5x5 maps with half the resolution due to max-pooling),
  • Conv_3 (128 3x3 maps filtering combined maps of Pool_2).

Patterns in maps?

We have seen already in the last article that the "patterns" which are displayed in a map of a higher layer Conv_N, with N ≥ 2, are rather abstract ones. The images of the maps at Conv_3 do not reflect figurative elements or geometrical patterns of the input images any more - at least not in a directly visible way. It does not help that the activations are probably triggered by some characteristic pixel patterns in the original images.

The convolutions and the pooling operation transform the original image information into more and more abstract representation spaces of shrinking dimensionality and resolution. This is due to the fact that the activation of a point in a map on a layer Conv_(N+1) results

  • from a specific combination of multiple maps of a layer Conv_N or Pool_N
  • and from a loss of resolution due to intermediate pooling.

It is not possible to directly guess in what way active points or activated areas within a certain map at the third convolutional layer relate to or how they depend on "original and specific patterns in the input image". If you do not believe me: Well, just look at the maps of the 3rd convolutional layer presented in the last article and tell me: What patterns in the initial image did these maps react to? Without some sophisticated numerical experiments you won't be able to figure that out.

Patterns in the input image vs. patterns within and across maps

The above remarks indicate already that "patterns" may occur at different levels of consideration and abstraction. We talk about patterns in the input image and patterns within as well as across the maps of convolutional (or pooling) layers. To avoid confusion I already now want to make the following distinction:

  • (Original) input patterns [OIP]: When I speak of (original) "input patterns" I mean patterns or figurative elements in the input image. In more mathematical terms I mean patterns within the input image which correspond to a kind of fixed and strong correlation between the values of pixels distributed over a sufficiently well defined geometrical area with a certain shape. Examples could be line-like elements, bow segments, two connected circles or combined rectangles. But OIPs may be of a much more complex and abstract kind and consist of strange sub-features - and they may not reflect a real world entity or a combination of such entities. An OIP may reside at one or multiple locations in different input images.
  • Filter correlation patterns [FCP]: A CNN produces maps by filtering input data (Conv level 1) or by filtering maps of a lower layer and combining the results. By doing so a higher layer may detect patterns in the filter results of a lower layer. I call a pattern across the maps of a convolutional or pooling layer Conv_N or Pool_N as seen by Conv_(N+1) a FCP.
    Note: Because a 3x3 filter for a map of Conv_(N+1) has fixed parameters per map of the previous layer Conv_N or Pool_N, it combines multiple maps (filters) of Conv_N in a specific, unique way.

Anybody who ever worked with image processing and filters knows that combining basic filters may lead to the display of weirdly looking, combined information residing in complex regions on the original image. E.g., a certain combination of filters may emphasize diagonal lines or bows with some distance in between and suppress all other features. Therefore, it is at least plausible that a map of a higher convolutional layer can be translated back to an OIP. Meaning:

A high activation of certain or multiple points inside a map on Conv_3 may reflect some typical OIP pattern in the input image.

But: At the moment we have no direct proof for such an idea. And it is not at all obvious what kind of OIP pattern this may be for a distinct map - and whether it can directly be described in terms of basic geometrical elements of a figurative number representation in the MNIST case. By just looking at the maps of a layer and their activated points we do not get any clue about this.

If, however, activated maps somehow really correspond to OIPs then a FCP over multiple maps may be associated with a combination of distinct OIPs in an input image.

What are "features" then?

In many textbooks maps are also called "feature maps". As far I understand it the authors call a "feature" what I called an OIP above. By talking about a "feature" the authors most often refer to a pattern which a CNN somehow detects or identifies in the input images.

Typical examples of "features" text-book authors often discuss and even use in illustrations are very concrete: ears, eyes, feathers, wings, a mustache, leaves, wheels, sun-glasses ... I.e., a lot of authors typically name features which human beings identify as physical entities or as entities, for which we have clear conceptual ideas in our mind. I think such examples trigger ideas about CNNs which are too far-fetched and which "humanize" stupid algorithmic processes.

The arguments in favor of the detection of features in the sense of conceptual entities are typically a bit nebulous - to say the least. E.g. in a relatively new book on "Generative Deep Learning" you see a series of CNN neuron layers associated with rather dubious and unclear images of triangles etc. and at the last convolutional layer we suddenly see pretty clear sketches of a mustache, a certain hairdress, eyes, lips, a shirt, an ear .. ". The related text goes like follows (I retranslated the text from the German version of the book): "Layer 1 consists of neurons which activate themselves stronger, when they recognize certain elementary and basic features in the input image, e.g. borders. The output of these neurons is then forwarded to the neurons of layer 2 which can use this information to detect more complex features - and so on across the following layers." Yeah, "neurons activate themselves" as they "recognize" features - and suddenly the neurons at a high enough layer see a "spectacle". 🙁

I think it would probably be more correct to say the following:

The activation of a map of a high convolutional layer may indicate the appearance of some kind of (complex) pattern or a sequence of patterns within an input image, for which a specific filter combination produces relatively high values in a low dimensional output space.

Note: At our level of analyzing CNNs even this carefully formulated idea is speculation. Which we will have to prove somehow ... Where we stand right now, we are unfortunately not yet ready to identify OIPs or repeated OIP sequences associated with maps. This will be the topic of forthcoming articles.

It is indeed an interesting question whether a trained CNN "detects" patterns in the sense of entities with an underlying "concept". I would say: Certainly not. At least not pure CNNs. I think, we should be very careful with the use of the term "feature". Based on the filtering convolutions perform we might say:

A "feature" (hopefully) is a pattern in the sense of defined geometrical pixel correlation in an image.

Not more, not less. Such a "feature" may or may not correspond to entities, which a human being could identify and for which he or she has a concept for. A feature is just a pixel correlation whose appearance triggers output neurons in high level maps.

By the way there are 2 more points regarding the idea of feature detection:

  • A feature or OIP may be located at different places in different images of something like a "5". Due to different sizes of the depicted "5" and translational effects. So keep in mind that if maps do indeed relate to features it has to be explained how convolutional filtering can account for any translational invariance of the "detection" of a pattern in an image.
  • The concrete examples given for "features" by many authors imply that the features are more or less the same for two differently trained CNNs. Well, regarding the point that training corresponds to finding a minimum on a rather complex multidimensional hyperplane this raises the question how well defined such a (global) minimum really is and whether it or other valid side minima are approached.

Keep these points in mind until we come back to related experiments in further articles.

From "features" to FCPs on the last Conv-layer?

However and independent of how a CNN really reacts to OIPs or "features", we should not forget the following:
In the end a CNN - more precisely its embedded MLP - reacts to FCPs on the last convolutional level. In our CNN an FCP on the third convolutional layer with specific active points across 128 (3x3)-maps obviously can obviously tell the MLP something about the class an input image belongs to: We have proven already that the MLP part of our simple CNN guesses the class the original image belongs to with a surprisingly high accuracy. And by construction it obviously does so by just analyzing the 128 (3x3)-activation values of the third layer - arranged into a flattened vector.

From a classification point of view it, therefore, seems to be legitimate to look out for any FCP across the maps on Conv_3. As we can visualize the maps it is reasonable to literally look for common activation patterns which different images of handwritten "4"s may trigger on the maps of the last convolutional level. The basic idea behind this experimental step is:

OIPs which are typical for images of a "4" trigger and activate certain maps or points within certain maps. Across all maps we then may see a characteristic FCP for a "4", which not only a MLP but also we intelligent humans could identify.

Or: Multiple characteristic features in images of a "4" may trigger characteristic FCPs which in turn can be used indicators of a class an image belongs to by an MLP. Well, let us see how far we get with this kind of theory.

Levels of "abstractions"

Let us take a MNIST image which represents something which a European would consider to be a clear representation of a "4".

In the second image I used the "jet"-color map; i.e. dark blue indicates a low intensity value while colors from light blue to green to yellow and red indicate growing intensity values.

The first conv2D-layer ("Conv2d_1") produces the following 32 maps of my chosen "4"-image after training:

We see that the filters, which were established during training emphasize general contours but also focus on certain image regions. However, the original "4" is still clearly visible on very many maps as the convolution does not yet reduce resolution too much.

By the way: When looking at the maps the first time I found it surprising that the application of a simple linear 3x3 filter with stride 1 could emphasize an overall oval region and suppress the pixels which formed the "4" inside of this region. A closer look revealed however that the oval region existed already in the original image data. It was emphasized by an inversion of the pixel values ...

Pooling
The second Conv2D-layer already combines information of larger areas of the image - as a max (!) pooling layer was applied before. We loose resolution here. But there is a gain, too: the next convolution can filter (already filtered) information over larger areas of the original image.

But note: In other types of more advanced and modern CNNs pooling only is involved after two or more successive convolutions have happened. The direct succession of convolutions corresponds to a direct and unique combination of filters at the same level of resolution.

The 2nd convolution
As we use 64 convolutional maps on the 2nd layer level we allow for a multitude of different new convolutions. It is to be understood that each new map at the 2nd cConv layer is the result of a special unique combination of filtered information of all 32 previous maps (of Pool_1). Each of the previous 32 maps contributes through a specific unique filter and respective convolution operation to a single specific map at layer 2. Remember that we get 3x3 x 32 x 64 parameters for connecting the maps of Pool_1 to maps of Conv_2. It is this unique combination of already filtered results which enriches the analysis of the original image for more complex patterns than just the ones emphasized by the first convolutional filters.

As the max-condition of the pooling layer was applied first and because larger areas are now analyzed we are not too astonished to see that the filters dissolve the original "4"-shape and indicate more general geometrical patterns - which actually reflect specific correlations of map patterns on layer Conv_1.

I find it interesting that our "4" triggers more horizontally activations within some maps on this already abstract level than vertical ones. One should not confuse these patterns with horizontal patterns in the original image. The relation of original patterns with these activations is already much more complex.

The third convolutional layer applies filters which now cover almost the full original image and combine and mix at the same time information from the already rather abstract results of layer 2 - and of all the 64 maps there in parallel.

We again see a dominance of horizontal patterns. We see clearly that on this level any reference to something like an arrangement of parallel vertical lines crossed by a horizontal line is completely lost. Instead the CNN has transformed the original distribution of black (dark grey) pixels into multiple abstract configuration spaces with 2 axes, which only coarsely reflecting the original image area - namely by 3x3 maps; i.e. spaces with a very poor resolution.

What we see here are "correlations" of filtered and transformed original pixel clusters over relatively large areas. But no constructive concept of certain line arrangements.

Now, if this were the level of "FCP-patterns" which the MLP-part of the CNN uses to determine that we have a "4" then we would bet that such abstract patterns (active points on 9x9 grids) appear in a similar way on the maps of the 3rd Conv layer for other MNIST images of a "4", too.

Well, how similar do different map representations of "4"s look like on the 3rd Conv2D-layer?

What makes a four a four in the eyes of the CNN?

The last question corresponds to the question of what activation outputs of "4"s really have in common. Let us take 3 different images of a "4":

The same with the "jet"-color-map:

 

Already with our eyes we see that there are similarities but also quite a lot of differences.

Different "4"-representations on the 2nd Conv-layer

Below we see comparison of the 64 maps on the 2nd Conv-layer for our three "4"-images.

If you move your head backwards and ignore details you see that certain maps are not filled in all three map-pictures. Unfortunately, this is no common feature of "4"-representations. Below you see images of the activation of a "1" and a "2". There the same maps are not activated at all.

We also see that on this level it is still important which points within a map are activated - and not which map on average. The orginal shape of the underlying number is refelected in the maps' activations.

Now, regarding the "4"-representations you may say: Well, I still recognize some common line patterns - e.g. parallel lines in a certain 75 degree angle on the 11x11 grids. Yes, but these lines are almost dissolved by the next pooling step:

Consider in addition that the next (3rd) convolution combines 3x3-data of all of the displayed 5x5-maps. Then, probably, we can hardly speak of a concept of abstract line configurations any more ...

"4"-representations on the third Conv-layer

Below you find the activation outputs on the 3rd Conv2D-layer for our three different "4"-images:

When we look at details we see that prominent "features" in one map of a specific 4-image do NOT appear in a fully comparable way in the eventual convolutional maps for another image of a "4". Some of the maps (i.e. filters after 4 transformations) produce really different results for our three images.

But there are common elements, too: I have marked only some of the points which show a significant intensity in all of the maps. But does this mean these individual common points are decisive for a classification of a "4"? We cannot be sure about it - probably it is their combination which is relevant.

So, what we ended up with is that we find some common points or some common point-relations in a few of the 128 "3x3"-maps of our three images of handwritten "4"s.

But how does this compare with maps of images of other digits? Well, look at he maps on the 3rd layer for images of a "1" and a "2" respectively:

On the 3rd layer it becomes more important which maps are not activated at all. But still the activation patterns within certain maps seem to be of importance for an eventual classification.

Conclusion

The maps of a CNN are created by an effective and guided optimization process. The results indicate the eventual detection of rather abstract patterns within and across filter maps on higher convolutional layers.

But these patterns (FCP-patterns) should not be confused with figurative elements or "features" in the original input images. Activation patterns at best vaguely remind of the original image features. At our level of analysis of a CNN we can only speculate about some correspondence of map activations with original features or patterns in an input image.

But it seems pretty clear that patterns in or across maps do not indicate any kind of constructive concept which describes how to build a "4" from underlying more elementary features in the sense of combine-able independent entities. There is no sign of conceptual constructive idea of how to denote a "4". At least not in pure CNNs ... Things may be a bit different in convolutional "autoencoders" (combinations of convolutional encoders and decoders), but this is another story we will come back to in this blog. Right now we would say that abstract (FCP-) patterns in maps of higher convolutional layers result from intricate filter combinations. These filters may react to certain patterns in an input image - but whether these patterns correspond to entities a human being would use to write down and thereby construct a "4" or an "8" is questionable.

We saw that the abstract information maps at the third layer of our CNN do show some common elements between the images belonging to the same class - and delicate differences with respect to activations resulting from images of other classes. However, the differences reside in details and the situation remains complicated. In the end the MLP-part of a CNN still has a lot of work to do. It must perform its classification task based on the correlation or anti-correlation of "point"-like elements in a multitude of maps - and probably even based on the activation level (i.e. output numbers) at these points.

This is seemingly very different from a conscious consideration process and weighing of alternatives which a human brain performs when it looks at sketches of numbers. When in doubt our brain tries to find traces consistent with a construction process defined for writing down a "4", i.e. signs of a certain arrangement of straight and curved lines. A human brain, thus, would refer to arrangements of line elements, bows or circles - but not to relations of individual points in an extremely coarse and abstract representation space after some mathematical transformations. You may now argue that we do not need such a process when looking at clear representations of a "4" - we look and just know that its a "4". I do not doubt that a brain may use maps, too - but I want to point out that a conscious intelligent thought process and conceptual ideas about entities involve constructive operations and not just a passive application of filters. Even from this extremely simplifying point of view CNNs are stupid though efficient algorithms. And authors writing about "features" should avoid any kind of a humanized interpretation.

In the next article

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – VI – classification by activation patterns and the role of the CNN’s MLP part

we shall look at the whole procedure again, but then we compare common elements of a "4" with those of a "9" on the 3rd convolutional layer. Then the key question will be: " What do "4"s have in common on the last convolutional maps which corresponding activations of "9"s do not show - and vice versa.

This will become especially interesting in cases for which a distinction was difficult for pure MLPs. You remember the confusion matrix for the MNIST dataset? See:
A simple Python program for an ANN to cover the MNIST dataset – XI – confusion matrix
We saw at that point in time that pure MLPs had some difficulties to distinct badly written "4"s from "9s".
We will see that the better distinction abilities of CNNs in the end depend on very few point like elements of the eventual activation on the last layer before the MLP.

Further articles in this series

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – VII – outline of steps to visualize image patterns which trigger filter maps
A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – VI – classification by activation patterns and the role of the CNN’s MLP part

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – IV – Visualizing the activation output of convolutional layers and maps

In the first three articles of this series on a (very) simple CNN for the MNIST dataset

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – III – inclusion of a learning-rate scheduler, momentum and a L2-regularizer
A simple CNN for the MNIST datasets – II – building the CNN with Keras and a first test
A simple CNN for the MNIST datasets – I – CNN basics

we invested some work into building layers and into the parameterization of a training run. Our rewards comprised a high accuracy value of around 99.35% and watching interactive plots during training.

But a CNN offers much more information which is worth and instructive to look at. In the first article I have talked a bit about feature detection happening via the "convolution" of filters with the original image data or the data produced at feature maps of previous layers. What if we could see what different filters do to the underlying data? Can we have a look at the output selected "feature maps" produce for a specific input image?

Yes, we can. And it is intriguing! The objective of this article is to plot images of the feature map output at a chosen convolutional or pooling layer of our CNN. This is accompanied by the hope to better understand the concept of abstract features extracted from an input image.

I follow an original idea published by F. Chollet (in his book "Deep Learning mit Python und Keras", mitp Verlag) and adapt it to the code discussed in the previous articles.

Referring to inputs and outputs of models and layers

So far we have dealt with a complete CNN with a multitude of layers that produce intermediate tensors and a "one-hot"-encoded output to indicate the prediction for a hand-written digit represented by a MNIST image. The CNN itself was handled by Keras in form of a sequential model of defined convolutional and pooling layers plus layers of a multi-layer perceptron [MLP]. By the definition of such a "model" Keras does all the work required for forward and backward propagation steps in the background. After training we can "predict" the outcome for any new digit image which we feed into the CNN: We just have to fetch the data form th eoutput layer (at the end of the MLP) after a forward propagation with the weights optimized during training.

But now, we need something else:

We need a model which gives us the output, i.e. a 2-dimensional tensor - of a specific map of an intermediate Conv-layer as a prediction for an input image!

I.e. we want the output of a sub-model of our CNN containing only a part of the layers. How can we define such an (additional) model based on the layers of our complete original CNN-model?

Well, with Keras we can build a general model based on any (partial) graph of connected layers which somebody has set up. The input of such a model must follow rules appropriate to the receiving layer and the output can be that of a defined subsequent layer or map. Setting up layers and models can on a very basic level be done with the so called "Functional API of Keras". This API enables us to directly refer to methods of the classes "Layer", "Model", "Input" and "Output".

A model - as an instance of the Model-class - can be called like a function for its input (in tensor form) and it returns its output (in tensor form). As we deal with classes you will not be surprised over the fact that we can refer to the input-layer of a general model via the model's instance name - let us say "cnnx" - and an instance attribute. A model has a unique input layer which later is fed by tensor input data. We can refer to this input layer via the attribute "input" of the model object. So, e.g. "cnnx.input" gives us a clear unique reference to the input layer. With the attribute "output" of a model we get a reference to the output layer.

But, how can we refer to the output of a specific layer or map of a CNN-model? If you look it up in the Keras documentation you will find that we can give each layer of a model a specific "name". And a Keras model, of course, has a method to retrieve a reference to a layer via its name:

cnnx.get_layer(layer_name) .

Each convolutional layer of our CNN is an instance of the class "Conv2D-Layer" with an attribute "output" - this comprises the multidimensional tensor delivered by the activation function of the layer's nodes (or units in Keras slang). Such a tensor has in general 4 axes for images:

sample-number of the batch, px width, px height, filter number

The "filter number" identifies a map of the Conv2D-layer. To get the "image"-data provided of a specific map (identified by "map-number") we have to address the array as

cnnx.get_layer(layer_name)[sample-number, :, :, map-number]

We know already that these data are values in a certain range (here above 0, due to our choice of the activation function as "relu").

Hint regarding wording: F. Chollet calls the output of the activation functions of the nodes of a layer or map the "activation" of the layer or map, repsectively. We shall use this wording in the code we are going to build.

Displaying a specific image

It may be necessary later on to depict a chosen input image for our analysis - e.g. a MNIST image of the test data set. How can we do this? We just fill a new Jupyter cell with the following code:

ay_img = test_imgs[7:8]
plt.imshow(ay_img[0,:,:,0], cmap=plt.cm.binary)

This code lines would plot the eighths sample image of the already shuffled test data set.

Using layer names and saving as well as restoring a model

We first must extend our previously defined functions to be able to deal with layer names. We change the code in our Jupyter Cell 8 (see the last article) in the following way:

Jupyter Cell 8: Setting up a training run

  
# Perform a training run 
# ********************

# Prepare the plotting 
# The really important command for interactive (=interediate) plot updating
%matplotlib notebook
plt.ion()

#sizing
fig_size = plt.rcParams["figure.figsize"]
fig_size[0] = 8
fig_size[1] = 3

# One figure 
# -----------
fig1 = plt.figure(1)
#fig2 = plt.figure(2)

# first figure with two plot-areas with axes 
# --------------------------------------------
ax1_1 = fig1.add_subplot(121)
ax1_2 = fig1.add_subplot(122)
fig1.canvas.draw()

# second figure with just one plot area with axes
# -------------------------------------------------
#ax2 = fig2.add_subplot(121)
#ax2_1 = fig2.add_subplot(121)
#ax2_2 = fig2.add_subplot(122)
#fig2.canvas.draw()

# ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
# Parameterization of the training run 

#build = False
build = True
if cnn == None:
    build = True
    x_optimizer = None 
batch_size=64
epochs=80
reset = False 
#reset = True # we want training to start again with the initial weights

my_loss    ='categorical_crossentropy'
my_metrics =['accuracy']

my_regularizer = None
my_regularizer = 'l2'
my_reg_param_l2 = 0.001
#my_reg_param_l2 = 0.01
my_reg_param_l1 = 0.01


my_optimizer      = 'rmsprop'       # Present alternatives:  rmsprop, nadam, adamax 
my_momentum       = 0.5           # momentum value 
my_lr_sched       = 'powerSched'    # Present alternatrives: None, powerSched, exponential 
#my_lr_sched       = None           # Present alternatrives: None, powerSched, exponential 
my_lr_init        = 0.001           # initial leaning rate  
my_lr_decay_steps = 1               # decay steps = 1 
my_lr_decay_rate  = 0.001           # decay rate 


li_conv_1    = [32, (3,3), 0] 
li_conv_2    = [64, (3,3), 0] 
li_conv_3    = [128, (3,3), 0] 
li_Conv      = [li_conv_1, li_conv_2, li_conv_3]
li_Conv_Name = ["Conv2D_1", "Conv2D_2", "Conv2D_3"]
li_pool_1    = [(2,2)]
li_pool_2    = [(2,2)]
li_Pool      = [li_pool_1, li_pool_2]
li_Pool_Name = ["Max_Pool_1", "Max_Pool_2", "Max_Pool_3"]
li_dense_1   = [100, 0]
#li_dense_2  = [30, 0]
li_dense_3   = [10, 0]
li_MLP       = [li_dense_1, li_dense_2, li_dense_3]
li_MLP       = [li_dense_1, li_dense_3]
input_shape  = (28,28,1)

try: 
    if gpu:
        with tf.device("/GPU:0"):
            cnn, fit_time, history, x_optimizer  = train( cnn, build, train_imgs, train_labels, 
                                            li_Conv, li_Conv_Name, li_Pool, li_Pool_Name, li_MLP, input_shape, 
                                            reset, epochs, batch_size, 
                                            my_loss=my_loss, my_metrics=my_metrics, 
                                            my_regularizer=my_regularizer, 
                                            my_reg_param_l2=my_reg_param_l2, my_reg_param_l1=my_reg_param_l1,  
                                            my_optimizer=my_optimizer, my_momentum = 0.8,  
                                            my_lr_sched=my_lr_sched, 
                                            my_lr_init=my_lr_init, my_lr_decay_steps=my_lr_decay_steps, 
                                            my_lr_decay_rate=my_lr_decay_rate,  
                                            fig1=fig1, ax1_1=ax1_1, ax1_2=ax1_2
                                            )
        print('Time_GPU: ', fit_time)  
    else:
        with tf.device("/CPU:0"):
            cnn, fit_time, history = train( cnn, build, train_imgs, train_labels, 
                                            li_Conv, li_Conv_Name, li_Pool, li_Pool_Name, li_MLP, input_shape, 
                                            reset, epochs, batch_size, 
                                            my_loss=my_loss, my_metrics=my_metrics, 
                                            my_regularizer=my_regularizer, 
                                            my_reg_param_l2=my_reg_param_l2, my_reg_param_l1=my_reg_param_l1,  
                                            my_optimizer=my_optimizer, my_momentum = 0.8, 
                                            my_lr_sched=my_lr_sched, 
                                            my_lr_init=my_lr_init, my_lr_decay_steps=my_lr_decay_steps, 
                                            my_lr_decay_rate=my_lr_decay_rate,  
                                            fig1=fig1, ax1_1=ax1_1, ax1_2=ax1_2
                                            )
        print('Time_CPU: ', fit_time)  
except SystemExit:
    print("stopped due to exception")

 
You see that I added a list

li_Conv_Name = ["Conv2D_1", "Conv2D_2", "Conv2D_3"]
...
li_Pool_Name = ["Max_Pool_1", "Max_Pool_2", "Max_Pool_3"]

which provides names of the (presently three) defined convolutional and (presently two) pooling layers. The interface to the training function has, of course, to be extended to accept these arrays. The function "train()" in Jupyter cell 7 (see the last article) is modified accordingly:

Jupyter cell 7: Trigger (re-) building and training of the CNN

# Training 2 - with test data integrated 
# *****************************************
def train( cnn, build, train_imgs, train_labels, 
           li_Conv, li_Conv_Name, li_Pool, li_Pool_Name, li_MLP, input_shape, 
           reset=True, epochs=5, batch_size=64, 
           my_loss='categorical_crossentropy', my_metrics=['accuracy'], 
           my_regularizer=None, 
           my_reg_param_l2=0.01, my_reg_param_l1=0.01, 
           my_optimizer='rmsprop', my_momentum=0.0, 
           my_lr_sched=None, 
           my_lr_init=0.001, my_lr_decay_steps=1, my_lr_decay_rate=0.00001,
           fig1=None, ax1_1=None, ax1_2=None
):
    
    if build:
        # build cnn layers - now with regularizer - 200603 rm
        cnn = build_cnn_simple( li_Conv, li_Conv_Name, li_Pool, li_Pool_Name, li_MLP, input_shape, 
                                my_regularizer = my_regularizer, 
                                my_reg_param_l2 = my_reg_param_l2, my_reg_param_l1 = my_reg_param_l1)
        
        # compile - now with lr_scheduler - 200603
        cnn = my_compile(cnn=cnn, 
                         my_loss=my_loss, my_metrics=my_metrics, 
                         my_optimizer=my_optimizer, my_momentum=my_momentum, 
                         my_lr_sched=my_lr_sched,
                         my_lr_init=my_lr_init, my_lr_decay_steps=my_lr_decay_steps, 
                         my_lr_decay_rate=my_lr_decay_rate)        
        
        # save the inital (!) weights to be able to restore them  
        cnn.save_weights('cnn_weights.h5') # save the initial weights 
         
        
    # reset weights(standard)
    if reset:
        cnn.load_weights('cnn_weights.h5')
 
    # Callback list 
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    use_scheduler = True
    if my_lr_sched == None:
        use_scheduler = False
    lr_history = LrHistory(use_scheduler)
    callbacks_list = [lr_history]
    if fig1 != None:
        epoch_plot = EpochPlot(epochs, fig1, ax1_1, ax1_2)
        callbacks_list.append(epoch_plot)
    
    start_t = time.perf_counter()
    if reset:
        history = cnn.fit(train_imgs, train_labels, initial_epoch=0, epochs=epochs, batch_size=batch_size, verbose=1, shuffle=True, 
                  validation_data=(test_imgs, test_labels), callbacks=callbacks_list) 
    else:
        history = cnn.fit(train_imgs, train_labels, epochs=epochs, batch_size=batch_size, verbose=1, shuffle=True, 
                validation_data=(test_imgs, test_labels), callbacks=callbacks_list ) 
    end_t = time.perf_counter()
    fit_t = end_t - start_t
    
    # save the model 
    cnn.save('cnn.h5')
    
    return cnn, fit_t, history, x_optimizer  # we return cnn to be able to use it by other Jupyter functions

 
We transfer the name-lists further on to the function "build_cnn_simple()":

Jupyter Cell 4: Build a simple CNN

# Sequential layer model of our CNN
# ***********************************

# important !!
# ~~~~~~~~~~~
cnn = None
x_optimizers = None 

# function to build the CNN 
# ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
def build_cnn_simple(li_Conv, li_Conv_Name, li_Pool, li_Pool_Name, li_MLP, input_shape, 
                     my_regularizer=None, 
                     my_reg_param_l2=0.01, my_reg_param_l1=0.01 ):

    use_regularizer = True
    if my_regularizer == None:
        use_regularizer = False  
    
    # activation functions to be used in Conv-layers 
    li_conv_act_funcs = ['relu', 'sigmoid', 'elu', 'tanh']
    # activation functions to be used in MLP hidden layers  
    li_mlp_h_act_funcs = ['relu', 'sigmoid', 'tanh']
    # activation functions to be used in MLP output layers  
    li_mlp_o_act_funcs = ['softmax', 'sigmoid']

    # dictionary for regularizer functions
    d_reg = {
        'l2': regularizers.l2,  
        'l1': regularizers.l1
    }
    if use_regularizer: 
        if my_regularizer not in d_reg:
            print("regularizer " + my_regularizer + " not known!")
            sys.exit()
        else: 
            regul = d_reg[my_regularizer] 
        if my_regularizer == 'l2':
            reg_param = my_reg_param_l2
        elif my_regularizer == 'l1':
            reg_param = my_reg_param_l1
    
    
    # Build the Conv part of the CNN
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    num_conv_layers = len(li_Conv)
    num_pool_layers = len(li_Pool)
    if num_pool_layers != num_conv_layers - 1: 
        print("\nNumber of pool layers does not fit to number of Conv-layers")
        sys.exit()
    rg_il = range(num_conv_layers)

    # Define a sequential CNN model
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~-----
    cnn = models.Sequential()

    # in our simple model each con2D layer is followed by a Pooling layer (with the exeception of the last one) 
    for il in rg_il:
        # add the convolutional layer 
        num_filters  = li_Conv[il][0]
        t_fkern_size = li_Conv[il][1]
        cact         = li_conv_act_funcs[li_Conv[il][2]]
        cname        = li_Conv_Name[il]
        if il==0:
            cnn.add(layers.Conv2D(num_filters, t_fkern_size, activation=cact, name=cname,  
                                  input_shape=input_shape))
        else:
            cnn.add(layers.Conv2D(num_filters, t_fkern_size, activation=cact, name=cname))
        
        # add the pooling layer 
        if il < num_pool_layers:
            t_pkern_size = li_Pool[il][0]
            pname        = li_Pool_Name[il] 
            cnn.add(layers.MaxPooling2D(t_pkern_size, name=pname))
            

    # Build the MLP part of the CNN
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    num_mlp_layers = len(li_MLP)
    rg_im = range(num_mlp_layers)

    cnn.add(layers.Flatten())

    for im in rg_im:
        # add the dense layer 
        n_nodes = li_MLP[im][0]
        if im < num_mlp_layers - 1:  
            m_act   =  li_mlp_h_act_funcs[li_MLP[im][1]]
            if use_regularizer:
                cnn.add(layers.Dense(n_nodes, activation=m_act, kernel_regularizer=regul(reg_param)))
            else:
                cnn.add(layers.Dense(n_nodes, activation=m_act))
        else: 
            m_act   =  li_mlp_o_act_funcs[li_MLP[im][1]]
            if use_regularizer:
                cnn.add(layers.Dense(n_nodes, activation=m_act, kernel_regularizer=regul(reg_param)))
            else:
                cnn.add(layers.Dense(n_nodes, activation=m_act))
                
    return cnn 

 
The layer names are transferred to Keras via the parameter "name" of the Model's method "model.add()" to add a layer, e.g.:

cnn.add(layers.Conv2D(num_filters, t_fkern_size, activation=cact, name=cname))

Note that all other Jupyter cells remain unchanged.

Saving and restoring a model

Predictions of a neural network require a forward propagation of an input and thus a precise definition of layers and weights. In the last article we have already seen how we save and reload weight data of a model. However, weights make only a part of the information defining a model in a certain state. For seeing the activation of certain maps of a trained model we would like to be able to reload the full model in its trained status. Keras offers a very simple method to save and reload the complete set of data for a given model-state:

cnn.save(filename.h5')
cnnx = models.load_model('filename.h5')

This statement creates a file with the name name "filename.h5" in the h5-format (for large hierarchically organized data) in our Jupyter environment. You would of course replace "filename" by a more appropriate name to characterize your saved model-state. In my combined Eclipse-Jupyter-environment the standard path for such files points to the directory where I keep my notebooks. We included a corresponding statement at the end of the function "train()". The attentive reader has certainly noticed this fact already.

A function to build a model for the retrieval and display of the activations of maps

We now build a new function to do the plotting of the outputs of all maps of a layer.

Jupyter Cell 9 - filling a grid with output-images of all maps of a layer

# Function to plot the activations of a layer 
# -------------------------------------------
# Adaption of a method originally designed by F.Chollet 

def img_grid_of_layer_activation(d_img_sets, model_fname='cnn.h5', layer_name='', img_set="test_imgs", num_img=8, 
                                 scale_img_vals=False):
    '''
    Input parameter: 
    -----------------
    d_img_sets: dictionary with available img_sets, which contain img tensors (presently: train_imgs, test_imgs)  
    model_fname: Name of the file containing the models data 
    layer_name: name of the layer for which we plot the activation; the name must be known to the Keras model (string) 
    image_set: The set of images we pick a specific image from (string)
    num_img: The sample number of the image in the chosen set (integer) 
    scale_img_vals: False: Do NOT scale (standardize) and clip (!) the pixel values. True: Standardize the values. (Boolean)
        
    Hints: 
    -----------------
    We assume quadratic images 
    '''
    
    # Load a model 
    cnnx = models.load_model(model_fname)
    
    # get the output of a certain named layer - this includes all maps
    # https://keras.io/getting_started/faq/#how-can-i-obtain-the-output-of-an-intermediate-layer-feature-extraction
    cnnx_layer_output = cnnx.get_layer(layer_name).output

    # build a new model for input "cnnx.input" and output "output_of_layer"
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    # Keras knows the required connections and intermediat layers from its tensorflow graphs - otherwise we get an error 
    # The new model can make predictions for a suitable input in the required tensor form   
    mod_lay = models.Model(inputs=cnnx.input, outputs=cnnx_layer_output)
    
    # Pick the input image from a set of respective tensors 
    if img_set not in d_img_sets:
        print("img set " + img_set + " is not known!")
        sys.exit()
    # slicing to get te right tensor 
    ay_img = d_img_sets[img_set][num_img:(num_img+1)]
    
    # Use the tensor data as input for a prediction of model "mod_lay" 
    lay_activation = mod_lay.predict(ay_img) 
    print("shape of layer " + layer_name + " : ", lay_activation.shape )
    
    # number of maps of the selected layer 
    n_maps   = lay_activation.shape[-1]

    # size of an image - we assume quadratic images 
    img_size = lay_activation.shape[1]

    # Only for testing: plot an image for a selected  
    # map_nr = 1 
    #plt.matshow(lay_activation[0,:,:,map_nr], cmap='viridis')

    # We work with a grid of images for all maps  
    # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~----------------------------
    # the grid is build top-down (!) with num_cols and num_rows
    # dimensions for the grid 
    num_imgs_per_row = 8 
    num_cols = num_imgs_per_row
    num_rows = n_maps // num_imgs_per_row
    #print("img_size = ", img_size, " num_cols = ", num_cols, " num_rows = ", num_rows)

    # grid 
    dim_hor = num_imgs_per_row * img_size
    dim_ver = num_rows * img_size
    img_grid = np.zeros( (dim_ver, dim_hor) )   # horizontal, vertical matrix  
    print(img_grid.shape)

    # double loop to fill the grid 
    n = 0
    for row in range(num_rows):
        for col in range(num_cols):
            n += 1
            #print("n = ", n, "row = ", row, " col = ", col)
            present_img = lay_activation[0, :, :, row*num_imgs_per_row + col]

            # standardization and clipping of the img data  
            if scale_img_vals:
                present_img -= present_img.mean()
                if present_img.std() != 0.0: # standard deviation
                    present_img /= present_img.std()
                    #present_img /= (present_img.std() +1.e-8)
                    present_img *= 64
                    present_img += 128
                present_img = np.clip(present_img, 0, 255).astype('uint8') # limit values to 255

            # place the img-data at the right space and position in the grid 
            # ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            # the following is only used if we had reversed vertical direction by accident  
            #img_grid[row*img_size:(row+1)*(img_size), col*img_size:(col+1)*(img_size)] = np.flip(present_img, 0)
            img_grid[row*img_size:(row+1)*(img_size), col*img_size:(col+1)*(img_size)] = present_img
 
    return img_grid, img_size, dim_hor, dim_ver 

 
I explain the core parts of this code in the next two sections.

Explanation 1: A model for the prediction of the activation output of a (convolutional layer) layer

In a first step of the function "img_grid_of_layer_activation()" we load a CNN model saved at the end of a previous training run:

cnnx = models.load_model(model_fname)

The file-name "Model_fname" is a parameter.

With the lines

cnnx_layer_output = cnnx.get_layer(layer_name).output
mod_lay = models.Model(inputs=cnnx.input, outputs=cnnx_layer_output)

we define a new model "cnnx" comprising all layers (of the loaded model) in between cnnx.input and cnnx_layer_output. "cnnx_layer_output" serves as an output layer of this new model "cnnx". This model - as every working CNN model - can make predictions for a given input tensor. The output of this prediction is a tensor produced by cnnx_layer_output; a typical shape of the tensor is:

shape of layer Conv2D_1 :  (1, 26, 26, 32)

From this tensor we can retrieve the size of the comprised quadratic image data.

Explanation 2: A grid to collect "image data" of the activations of all maps of a (convolutional) layer

Matplotlib can plot a grid of equally sized images. We use such a grid to collect the activation data produced by all maps of a chosen layer, which was given by its name as an input parameter.

The first statements define the number of images in a row of the grid - i.e. the number of columns of the grid. With the number of layer maps this in turn defines the required number of rows in the grid. From the number of pixel data in the tensor we can now define the grid dimensions in terms of pixels. The double loop eventually fills in the image data extracted from the tensors produced by the layer maps.

If requested by a function parameter "scale_img_vals=True" we standardize the image data and limit the pixel values to a maximum of 255 (clipping). This can in some cases be useful to get a better graphical representation of the activation data with some color maps.

Our function "mg_grid_of_layer_activation()" returns the grid and dimensional data.

Note that the grid is oriented from its top downwards and from the left to the right side.

Plotting the output of a layer

In a further Jupyter cell we prepare and perform a call of our new function. Afterwards we plot resulting information in two figures.

Jupyter Cell 10 - plotting the activations of a layer

# Plot the img grid of a layers activation 
# ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

# global dict for the image sets 
d_img_sets= {'train_imgs':train_imgs, 'test_imgs':test_imgs}

# layer - pick one of the names which you defined for your model 
layer_name = "Conv2D_1"

# choose a image_set and an img number 
img_set = "test_imgs"
num_img = 19


# Two figures 
# -----------
fig1 = plt.figure(1)  # figure for th einput img
fig2 = plt.figure(2)  # figure for the activation outputs of th emaps 

ay_img = test_imgs[num_img:num_img+1]
plt.imshow(ay_img[0,:,:,0], cmap=plt.cm.binary)

# getting the img grid 
img_grid, img_size, dim_hor, dim_ver = img_grid_of_layer_activation(
                                        d_img_sets, model_fname='cnn.h5', layer_name=layer_name, 
                                        img_set=img_set, num_img=num_img, 
                                        scale_img_vals=False)
# Define reasonable figure dimensions by scaling the grid-size  
scale = 1.6 / (img_size)
fig2 = plt.figure( figsize=(scale * dim_hor, scale * dim_ver) )
#axes 
ax = fig2.gca()
ax.set_xlim(-0,dim_hor-1.0)
ax.set_ylim(dim_ver-1.0, 0)  # the grid is oriented top-down 
#ax.set_ylim(-0,dim_ver-1.0) # normally wrong

# setting labels - tick positions and grid lines  
ax.set_xticks(np.arange(img_size-0.5, dim_hor, img_size))
ax.set_yticks(np.arange(img_size-0.5, dim_ver, img_size))
ax.set_xticklabels([]) # no labels should be printed 
ax.set_yticklabels([])

# preparing the grid 
plt.grid(b=True, linestyle='-', linewidth='.5', color='#ddd', alpha=0.7)

# color-map 
#cmap = 'viridis'
#cmap = 'inferno'
#cmap = 'jet'
cmap = 'magma'

plt.imshow(img_grid, aspect='auto', cmap=cmap)

 
The first figure contains the original MNIST image. The second figure will contain the grid with its images of the maps' output. The code is straightforward; the corrections of the dimensions have to do with the display of intermittent lines to separate the different images. Statements like "ax.set_xticklabels([])" set the tick-mark-texts to empty strings. At the end of the code we choose a color map.

Note that I avoided to standardize the image data. Clipping suppresses extreme values; however, the map-related filters react to these values. So, let us keep the full value spectrum for a while ...

Training run to get a reference model

I performed a training run with the following setting and saved the last model:

build = True
if cnn == None:
    build = True
    x_optimizer = None 
batch_size=64
epochs=80
reset = False # we want training to start again with the initial weights
#reset = True # we want training to start again with the initial weights

my_loss    ='categorical_crossentropy'
my_metrics =['accuracy']

my_regularizer = None
my_regularizer = 'l2'
my_reg_param_l2 = 0.001
#my_reg_param_l2 = 0.01
my_reg_param_l1 = 0.01


my_optimizer      = 'rmsprop'       # Present alternatives:  rmsprop, nadam, adamax 
my_momentum       = 0.5           # momentum value 
my_lr_sched       = 'powerSched'    # Present alternatrives: None, powerSched, exponential 
#my_lr_sched       = None           # Present alternatrives: None, powerSched, exponential 
my_lr_init        = 0.001           # initial leaning rate  
my_lr_decay_steps = 1               # decay steps = 1 
my_lr_decay_rate  = 0.001           # decay rate 


li_conv_1    = [32, (3,3), 0] 
li_conv_2    = [64, (3,3), 0] 
li_conv_3    = [128, (3,3), 0] 
li_Conv      = [li_conv_1, li_conv_2, li_conv_3]
li_Conv_Name = ["Conv2D_1", "Conv2D_2", "Conv2D_3"]
li_pool_1    = [(2,2)]
li_pool_2    = [(2,2)]
li_Pool      = [li_pool_1, li_pool_2]
li_Pool_Name = ["Max_Pool_1", "Max_Pool_2", "Max_Pool_3"]
li_dense_1   = [100, 0]
#li_dense_2  = [30, 0]
li_dense_3   = [10, 0]
li_MLP       = [li_dense_1, li_dense_2, li_dense_3]
li_MLP       = [li_dense_1, li_dense_3]
input_shape  = (28,28,1)

 

This run gives us the following results:

and

Epoch 80/80
933/938 [============================>.] - ETA: 0s - loss: 0.0030 - accuracy: 0.9998
present lr:  1.31509732e-05
present iteration: 75040
938/938 [==============================] - 4s 5ms/step - loss: 0.0030 - accuracy: 0.9998 - val_loss: 0.0267 - val_accuracy: 0.9944

Tests and first impressions of the convolutional layer output

Ok, let us test the code to plot the maps' output. For the input data

# layer - pick one of the names which you defined for your model 
layer_name = "Conv2D_1"

# choose a image_set and an img number 
img_set = "test_imgs"
num_img = 19

we get the following results:

Layer "Conv2D_1"

Layer "Conv2D_2"

Layer "Conv2D_3"

Conclusion

Keras' flexibility regarding model definitions allows for the definition of new models based on parts of the original CNN. The output layer of these new models can be set to any of the convolutional or pooling layers. With predictions for an input image we can extract the activation results of all maps of a layer. These data can be visualized in form of a grid that shows the reaction of a layer to the input image. A first test shows that the representations of the input get more and more abstract with higher convolutional layers.

In the next article

A simple CNN for the MNIST dataset – V – about the difference of activation patterns and features

we shall have a closer look of what these abstractions may mean for the classification of certain digit images.

Links

https://keras.io/getting_started/faq/#how-can-i-obtain-the-output-of-an-intermediate-layer-feature-extraction

https://machinelearningmastery.com/how-to-visualize-filters-and-feature-maps-in-convolutional-neural-networks/

https://towardsdatascience.com/visualizing-intermediate-activation-in-convolutional-neural-networks-with-keras-260b36d60d0

https://hackernoon.com/visualizing-parts-of-convolutional-neural-networks-using-keras-and-cats-5cc01b214e59

https://colab.research.google.com/github/fchollet/deep-learning-with-python-notebooks/blob/master/5.4-visualizing-what-convnets-learn.ipynb