We investigate a latent variable model for multinomial classification inspired by recent capsule architectures for visual object recognition (Sabour, Frosst, & Hinton, 2017). Capsule architectures use vectors of hidden unit activities to encode the pose of visual objects in an image, and they use the lengths of these vectors to encode the probabilities that objects are present. Probabilities from different capsules can also be propagated through deep multilayer networks to model the part-whole relationships of more complex objects. Notwithstanding the promise of these networks, there still remains much to understand about capsules as primitive computing elements in their own right. In this letter, we study the problem of capsule regression—a higher-dimensional analog of logistic, probit, and softmax regression in which class probabilities are derived from vectors of competing magnitude. To start, we propose a simple capsule architecture for multinomial classification: the architecture has one capsule per class, and each capsule uses a weight matrix to compute the vector of hidden unit activities for patterns it seeks to recognize. Next, we show how to model these hidden unit activities as latent variables, and we use a squashing nonlinearity to convert their magnitudes as vectors into normalized probabilities for multinomial classification. When different capsules compete to recognize the same pattern, the squashing nonlinearity induces nongaussian terms in the posterior distribution over their latent variables. Nevertheless, we show that exact inference remains tractable and use an expectation-maximization procedure to derive least-squares updates for each capsule's weight matrix. We also present experimental results to demonstrate how these ideas work in practice.

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