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The entire library is based around transforming 3-dimensional volumes of numbers. These volumes are stored in the Vol class, which is at the heart of the library. The Vol class is a wrapper around: Here are some examples:
// create a Vol of size 32x32x3, and filled with random numbers
var v = new convnetjs.Vol(32, 32, 3);
var v = new convnetjs.Vol(32, 32, 3, 0.0); // same volume but init with zeros
var v = new convnetjs.Vol(1, 1, 3); // a 1x1x3 Vol with random numbers

// you can also initialize with a specific list. E.g. create a 1x1x3 Vol:
var v = new convnetjs.Vol([1.2, 3.5, 3.6]);

// the Vol is a wrapper around two lists: .w and .dw, which both have 
// sx * sy * depth number of elements. E.g:
v.w[0] // contains 1.2
v.dw[0] // contains 0, because gradients are initialized with zeros

// you can also access the 3-D Vols with getters and setters
// but these are subject to function call overhead
var vol3d = new convnetjs.Vol(10, 10, 5);
vol3d.set(2,0,1,5.0); // set coordinate (2,0,1) to 5.0
vol3d.get(2,0,1) // returns 5.0


A Net is a very simple class that simply contains a list of Layers (discussed below). When an example (in form of a Vol) is passed through the Net, the Net simply iterates through all of its layers and propagates the example through each one in turn, and returns the result of the last layer. Similarly, during backpropagation the Net calls the backward() function of each layer in turn to compute the gradient.


As mentioned, every Network is just a linear list of layers. Your first layer must be 'input' (in which you declare sizes of your input), your last layer must be a loss layer ('softmax' or 'svm' for classification, or 'regression' for regression). Every layer takes an input Vol and produces a new output Vol, which is why I prefer to refer to them as transformers.

Before going into details of the types of available layers, lets look at an example at this point that ties these concepts together in a concrete form:

var layer_defs = [];
// minimal network: a simple binary SVM classifer in 2-dimensional space
layer_defs.push({type:'input', out_sx:1, out_sy:1, out_depth:2});
layer_defs.push({type:'svm', num_classes:2});

// create a net
var net = new convnetjs.Net();

// create a 1x1x2 volume of input activations:
var x = new convnetjs.Vol(1,1,2);
x.w[0] = 0.5; // w is the field holding the actual data
x.w[1] = -1.3;
// a shortcut for the above is var x = new convnetjs.Vol([0.5, -1.3]);

var scores = net.forward(x); // pass forward through network
// scores is now a Vol() of output activations
console.log('score for class 0 is assigned:'  + scores.w[0]);

Generic Neural Network Layers

Lets now step through the details of the Layers:

Input Layer
A dummy layer that essentially declares the size of input volume and must be first layer in the network. Inputs other than real-valued numbers are currently not supported.
          {type:'input', out_sx:1, out_sy:1, out_depth:20} // declares 20-dimensional input points
          {type:'input', out_sx:24, out_sy:24, out_depth:3} // input is 24x24 RGB image
Fully Connected Layer
Arguably the most important layer and building block of everything interesting. Declares a layer of neurons that perform weighted addition of all inputs (activations on layer below) and pass them through a nonlinearity. ReLU is the best activation to use if you know nothing about these networks. However, you have to be careful with keeping learning rates small because ReLU units can permanently die if a large gradient pushes them off your data manifold. In pratice, you may want to chain a few of these depending on how deep you want your deep learning to be ;) A good rule of thumb is you want just a few - maybe 1-3, unless you have really large datasets, in which case you shouldn't be using ConvNetJS anyway.
          // create layer of 10 linear neurons (no activation function by default)
          {type:'fc', num_neurons:10}
          // create layer of 10 neurons that use sigmoid activation function
          {type:'fc', num_neurons:10, activation:'sigmoid'} // x->1/(1+e^(-x))
          {type:'fc', num_neurons:10, activation:'tanh'} // x->tanh(x)
          {type:'fc', num_neurons:10, activation:'relu'} // rectified linear units: x->max(0,x)
          // maxout units: (x,y)->max(x,y). num_neurons must be divisible by 2.
          // maxout "consumes" multiple filters for every output. Thus, this line
          // will actually produce only 5 outputs in this layer. (group_size is 2)
          // by default.
          {type:'fc', num_neurons:10, activation:'maxout'} 
          // specify group size in maxout. num_neurons must be divisible by group_size.
          // here, output will be 3 neurons only (3 = 12/4)
          {type:'fc', num_neurons:12, group_size: 4, activation:'maxout'}
          // dropout half the units (probability 0.5) in this layer during training, for regularization
          {type:'fc', num_neurons:10, activation:'relu', drop_prob: 0.5}
Loss layers: Classifier Layers
Use these if you are interested in predicting a set of discrete classes for your data. In softmax, the outputs are probabilities that sum to 1. An SVM is trained to only output scores, not probabilities. SVMs also use a bit better loss function that is more robust (a hinge loss), but its best to experiment a bit.
          layer_defs.push({type:'softmax', num_classes:2});
          layer_defs.push({type:'svm', num_classes:2});
When you are training a classifier layer, your classes must be numbers that begin at 0. For a binary problem, these would be class 0 and class 1. For K classes, the classes are 0..K-1.
Loss layers: L2 Regression Layer
Create a regression layer which takes a list of targets (arbitrary numbers, not necessarily a single discrete class label as in softmax/svm) and backprops the L2 Loss. With this, the outputs of your neural net can be arbitrary floating point numbers. In this example we are declaring that we will be predicting 3 numbers as outputs of the net.
          // train 3 real-valued outputs
          layer_defs.push({type:'regression', num_neurons: 3});
When you are training a regression layer, you must pass the trainer a list of target values.

Layers for Convolutional Networks

If you are training Convolutional Neural Networks (on images, presumably), these layers will be useful:
Convolution Layer
This layer is almost identical to fully connected layer shown above, but neurons are connected only locally to a few neurons in the layer below (not all of them), and their parameters are shared. The layer crucially takes three parameters: sx, filters, stride. These refer to the filter size, number of filters, and the stride at which they are applied in the input volume. All the other options passed to this layer (such as 'activation', 'drop_prob', 'tensor' work identically). You can also use an optional 'pad', to automatically pad the input by some amount of pixels with zeros. By default no padding is applied. The layer performs valid convolutions, so if the input volume has size W1xH1xD1, the output layer will have size W2xH2xD2, where
            W2 = (W1 - sx + pad*2)/stride + 1
            H2 = (H1 - sy + pad*2)/stride + 1
            D2 = filters
Every filter slides spatially along all x,y positions in the input volume computing a single activation map, a sheet of activations in the output volume. Note that he extent along the "depth" direction (the 3rd direction) is always the entire input depth, while the connectivity is restricted spatially. Lets see a few examples:
          // 8 5x5 filters will be convolved with the input
          {type:'conv', sx:5, filters:8, stride:1, activation:'relu'}
          // 10 3x3 filters will be convolved with the input. Padding of 1 applied automatically
          {type:'conv', sx:3, pad:1, filters:10, stride:1, activation:'relu'}
          // 10 3x4 filters will be applied (height of filter is different here)
          {type:'conv', sx:3, sy: 4, pad:1, filters:10, stride:1, activation:'relu'}
          // first layer of a Krizhevsky et al (2012) net. 
          // On input of size 227x227x3 gives volume 55x55x96
          {type:'conv', sx:11, filters:96, stride:4, activation:'relu'}
Pooling Layer
Performs max pooling. If size of input volume W1xH1xD1, then size of output volume is W2xH2xD2, where:
            W2 = (W1 - sx + pad*2)/stride + 1
            H2 = (H1 - sx + pad*2)/stride + 1
            D2 = D1
In particular note that the output depth is equal to input depth, because the max pooling happens in every slice of the input volume (activation maps) independently. The parameters passed to pooling layer are exactly same as to the convolutional layer (but of course, without 'activation'):
          // perform max pooling in 2x2 non-overlapping neighborhoods
          {type:'pool', sx:2, stride:2}
Local Contrast Normalization Layer
Local contrast normalization according to this formula, but 1 is replaced with k. It creates local competition among neurons along depth, independently at every particular location in the input volume.
          {type:'lrn', k:1, n:3, alpha:0.1, beta:0.75}


So, we've seen how to define a network. Lets see how we actually train one. We will need the Trainer class. The Trainer class takes a network and parameters, and then you pass it examples and the associated correct labels (class labels, or target values in regression). The trainer passes the examples through the network, sees the network predictions, and then adjusts the network weights to make the provided correct labels more likely for that particular input in the future. If you do this many, times for your entire dataset in turns, it will over time transform the network to map all inputs to correct outputs!

        // example SGD+Momentum trainer. Performs a weight update every 10 examples
        var trainer = new convnetjs.Trainer(net, {method: 'sgd', learning_rate: 0.01, 
                                            l2_decay: 0.001, momentum: 0.9, batch_size: 10,
                                            l1_decay: 0.001});
        // example that uses adadelta. Reasonable for beginners.
        var trainer = new convnetjs.Trainer(net, {method: 'adadelta', l2_decay: 0.001,
                                            batch_size: 10});
        // example adagrad.
        var trainer = new convnetjs.Trainer(net, {method: 'adagrad', l2_decay: 0.001, 
                                            l1_decay: 0.001, batch_size: 10});

The three main options for a trainer are specified with 'method' and can be 'sgd'/'adagrad'/'adadelta'. The equations for these can be seen in this paper. Also relevant, here is a ConvNetJS demo comparing these on MNIST. Here are some tips:

Lets see examples of actually training:

        // the trainer takes Vol() inputs.
        var x = new convnetjs.Vol(1,1,d);
        x.w[0] = 1; // set first feature to 1. example

        // if your loss on top is
        // layer_defs.push({type:'svm', num_classes: 5});
        // use something like... (lets say x is class 3)
        var stats = trainer.train(x, 3);

        // if your loss on top is
        // layer_defs.push({type:'regression', num_neurons: 1});
        // use something like... (note the LIST!)
        var stats = trainer.train(x, [0.7]);
        // if your loss on top is
        // layer_defs.push({type:'regression', num_neurons: 3});
        // use something like
        var stats = trainer.train(x, [0.7, 0.1, 0.3]);

The returned object stats contains the cost (which you want to be decrease over time as you train, that's good). It also returns other things such as the time to propagate forward and backwards. Here's a last, little more realistic example of a training loop:

          var trainer = new convnetjs.SGDTrainer(net, {learning_rate:0.01, 
                            momentum:0.9, batch_size:16, l2_decay:0.001});
          for(var i=0;i<my_data.length;i++) {
            var x = new convnetjs.Vol(1,1,2,0.0); // a 1x1x2 volume initialized to 0's.
            x.w[0] = my_data[i][0]; // Vol.w is just a list, it holds your data
            x.w[1] = my_data[i][1];
            trainer.train(x, my_labels[i]);

Saving and Loading Networks with JSON

Simply put, use the toJSON() and fromJSON() functions. For example to save and load a net:

// network outputs all of its parameters into json object
var json = net.toJSON();
// the entire object is now simply string. You can save this somewhere
var str = JSON.stringify(json);

// later, to recreate the network:
var json = JSON.parse(str); // creates json object out of a string
var net2 = new convnetjs.Net(); // create an empty network
net2.fromJSON(json); // load all parameters from JSON

After executing the last line, net2 should be an exact duplicate of the original net.

Utilities and Visualizations

See github repo for modules (vis and util inside build/) that do small useful things, like plot graphs and so on. See demos for examples on how to use this functionality for now.

Reinforcement Learning

There is a module available to do Reinforcement Learning using Deep Q Learning. This allows you to create a deeqlearn.Brain() instance that takes states and rewards over time and produces a discrete action. Over time, the brain automagically adjusts its weights to perform actions that maximize the expected, time-discounted reward.

For example, lets train an agent that observes 3-dimensional states and is asked to do one of two actions. Lets reward the agent only for action 0 for sake of very simple example:

var brain = new deepqlearn.Brain(3, 2); // 3 inputs, 2 possible outputs (0,1)
var state = [Math.random(), Math.random(), Math.random()];
for(var k=0;k<10000;k++) {
    var action = brain.forward(state); // returns index of chosen action
    var reward = action === 0 ? 1.0 : 0.0;
    brain.backward([reward]); // <-- learning magic happens here
    state[Math.floor(Math.random()*3)] += Math.random()*2-0.5;
brain.epsilon_test_time = 0.0; // don't make any more random choices
brain.learning = false;
// get an optimal action from the learned policy
var action = brain.forward(array_with_num_inputs_numbers);
Of course, there are many possible options you can set. have a look at the reinfocement learning demo rldemo.html inside demo/ folder, or see the Reinforcement Learning demo for more documentation.

For Reinforcement Learning you might also be interested in my other projects reinforcejs.