Making It Up: Generative Adversarial Networks

Goodfellow et al. at Google Brain published Generative Adversarial Nets (GANs) in 2014 that turned the machine learning world on its side. In the past, neural networks had only been used for classification and regression, but these researchers developed a way to generate synthetic data that looks at least somewhat real. Nvidia submitted a study early into this development that generated fake celebrities. The major caveat was (and mostly still is) this methodology has only been applied to generating images using convolutional neural networks; however, more researchers are finding more expansive uses. In this post I will be using MNIST: a popular data set composed of thousands of handwritten numbers such as the following:

MNIST sample digits

Photo credit to GitHub user czala in repo

I will first present the common architecture of a GAN as well as the theory behind its operation, followed by an example implementation that generates instances of these handwritten digits.

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