VRA: Variational Rectified Activation for Out-of-distribution Detection

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Mingyu Xu, Zheng Lian, Bin Liu, Jianhua Tao


Out-of-distribution (OOD) detection is critical to building reliable machine learning systems in the open world. Researchers have proposed various strategies to reduce model overconfidence on OOD data. Among them, ReAct is a typical and effective technique to deal with model overconfidence, which truncates high activations to increase the gap between in-distribution and OOD. Despite its promising results, is this technique the best choice? To answer this question, we leverage the variational method to find the optimal operation and verify the necessity of suppressing abnormally low and high activations and amplifying intermediate activations in OOD detection, rather than focusing only on high activations like ReAct. This motivates us to propose a novel technique called ``Variational Rectified Activation (VRA)'', which simulates these suppression and amplification operations using piecewise functions. Experimental results on multiple benchmark datasets demonstrate that our method outperforms existing post-hoc strategies. Meanwhile, VRA is compatible with different scoring functions and network architectures. Our code is available at https://github.com/zeroQiaoba/VRA.