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Diffusion Models — my “second?” artist.
Latest   Machine Learning

Diffusion Models — my “second?” artist.

Last Updated on July 17, 2023 by Editorial Team

Author(s): Albert Nguyen

Originally published on Towards AI.

Diffusion Models are one of the most popular algorithms in Deep Learning. It is widely used in many applications, such as image generation, object detection, and text-to-image generation. In this article, I will explain how the diffusion models work (Link to paper Denoising Diffusion Probabilistic Models)

The main idea of the algorithm is to have 2 stochastic processes:

  • Forward process (Diffusion process)
  • Reverse process

Where the forward process is a fixed Markov Chains, and the reverse process is, typically, an Unet for generating images. The following will go into detail about the two processes.

The two processes are in detail

If you are not familiar with the Stochastic processes, the following may give you a headache. To the best of my knowledge, I will explain it intuitively.

The forward process

The process is a fixed Markov Chain with Gaussian transition with a variance schedule β1, …, βT. At each time step, the process will add a Gaussian noise with a given variance to the image.

Intuitive explanation

Say each image is a data point, then your entire dataset will form a distribution. The transition q(x_t U+007C x_t-1) tells us the distribution of the next state x_t given the current state x_t-1. Then, the forward process can be done by recursive sample data from a given distribution. Or, mathematically, we have the closed form:

Where α_t:= 1 − βt and α¯t is the cumulative product of a_0 to a_t. Then we can sample directly x_t from x_0 given the scheduled variance. And when the time step T is large enough, note that (1-βt) < 1, α¯t will reach to 0. This means the distribution of x_T will be approximate, a standard multivariate Gaussian.

The reverse process

This process is our deep learning model, where you sample some random noise and get an image. BUT how does it work? As above I mentioned that, we could treat our dataset as a distribution. Hence, if we find some way to sample a data point from it, we’ll get a real-looking image.

Then the task for our model is to learn to sample the data distribution by trying to reverse the forward process. Particularly, in generating, the inputs of model, x_T, will be in standard Gaussian, then it reverses the process with learned Gaussian transition:

> Training

  • Given an input image, the forward process will sample x_t
  • the sampled x_t will then feed into the model and try to predict the image

The loss is then computed by:

This can be explained as the KL divergence between the distribution of the transition of the two processes. In practice, this formula is simplified to:

There is quite a lot of math and other parameterizations to get to this, so I left it for you who are interested in reading the paper.

Why is KL Divergence?

KL Divergence tells us the long distance between the two distributions. What we want is to make the distribution of the generated images will be similar to the distribution of the images in the dataset. Then by minimizing the KL Divergence, the distribution of generated images will be pushed close the real distribution.

  • Pondering: This is not the only function that can tell how far the 2 distributions are. Indeed, in training GAN for a similar task, sometimes we use “earth-mover-distance” (Wasserstein Loss). But why is the KLD chosen?

Train a model to generate a celeb face.

I used the excellent work from lucidrains/denoising-diffusion-pytorch to train on the CelebA dataset on Kaggle. My notebook


This is my first article to share the knowledge I gain during my internship. I hope what I share here can help others. If you found this helpful but there is something missing, please share your thought in the comment. I will very much appreciate it.

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