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  1. A modal decomposition is a useful tool that deconstructs the statistical dependence between two random variables by decomposing their joint distribution into orthogonal modes. Historically, modal decompositions have played important roles in statistics and information theory, e.g., in the study of maximal correlation. They are defined using the singular value decompo- sitions of divergence transition matrices (DTMs) and conditional expectation operators corresponding to joint distributions. In this paper, we first characterize the set of all DTMs, and illustrate how the associated conditional expectation operators are the only weak contractions among a class of natural candidates. While modal decompositions have several modern machine learning applications, such as feature extraction from categorical data, the sample complexity of estimating them in such scenarios has not been analyzed. Hence, we also establish some non-asymptotic sample complexity results for the problem of estimating dominant modes of an unknown joint distribution from training data.
  2. One primary focus in multimodal feature extraction is to find the representations of individual modalities that are maximally correlated. As a well-known measure of dependence, the Hirschfeld-Gebelein-Rényi (HGR) maximal correlation be-´ comes an appealing objective because of its operational meaning and desirable properties. However, the strict whitening constraints formalized in the HGR maximal correlation limit its application. To address this problem, this paper proposes Soft-HGR, a novel framework to extract informative features from multiple data modalities. Specifically, our framework prevents the “hard” whitening constraints, while simultaneously preserving the same feature geometry as in the HGR maximal correlation. The objective of Soft-HGR is straightforward, only involving two inner products, which guarantees the efficiency and stability in optimization. We further generalize the framework to handle more than two modalities and missing modalities. When labels are partially available, we enhance the discriminative power of the feature representations by making a semi-supervised adaptation. Empirical evaluation implies that our approach learns more informative feature mappings and is more efficient to optimize.