Self-Supervised Learning of Event-Based Optical Flow with Spiking Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Jesse Hagenaars, Federico Paredes-Valles, Guido de Croon


The field of neuromorphic computing promises extremely low-power and low-latency sensing and processing. Challenges in transferring learning algorithms from traditional artificial neural networks (ANNs) to spiking neural networks (SNNs) have so far prevented their application to large-scale, complex regression tasks. Furthermore, realizing a truly asynchronous and fully neuromorphic pipeline that maximally attains the abovementioned benefits involves rethinking the way in which this pipeline takes in and accumulates information. In the case of perception, spikes would be passed as-is and one-by-one between an event camera and an SNN, meaning all temporal integration of information must happen inside the network. In this article, we tackle these two problems. We focus on the complex task of learning to estimate optical flow from event-based camera inputs in a self-supervised manner, and modify the state-of-the-art ANN training pipeline to encode minimal temporal information in its inputs. Moreover, we reformulate the self-supervised loss function for event-based optical flow to improve its convexity. We perform experiments with various types of recurrent ANNs and SNNs using the proposed pipeline. Concerning SNNs, we investigate the effects of elements such as parameter initialization and optimization, surrogate gradient shape, and adaptive neuronal mechanisms. We find that initialization and surrogate gradient width play a crucial part in enabling learning with sparse inputs, while the inclusion of adaptivity and learnable neuronal parameters can improve performance. We show that the performance of the proposed ANNs and SNNs are on par with that of the current state-of-the-art ANNs trained in a self-supervised manner.