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Gengchen Mai, Yao Xuan, Wenyun Zuo, Yutong He, Jiaming Song, Stefano Ermon, Krzysztof Janowicz, Ni Lao

Generating learning-friendly representations for points in space is a fundamental and long-standing problem in ML. Recently, multi-scale encoding schemes (such as Space2Vec and NeRF) were proposed to directly encode any point in 2D/3D Euclidean space as a high-dimensional vector, and has been successfully applied to various geospatial prediction and generative tasks. However, all current 2D and 3D location encoders are designed to model point distances in Euclidean space. So when applied to large-scale real-world GPS coordinate datasets, which require distance metric learning on the spherical surface, both types of models can fail due to the map projection distortion problem (2D) and the spherical-to-Euclidean distance approximation error (3D). To solve these problems, we propose a multi-scale location encoder called Sphere2Vec which can preserve spherical distances when encoding point coordinates on a spherical surface. We developed a unified view of distance-reserving encoding on spheres based on the DFS. We also provide theoretical proof that the Sphere2Vec preserves the spherical surface distance between any two points, while existing encoding schemes do not. Experiments on 20 synthetic datasets show that Sphere2Vec can outperform all baseline models on all these datasets with up to 30.8% error rate reduction. We then apply Sphere2Vec to three geo-aware image classification tasks - fine-grained species recognition, Flickr image recognition, and remote sensing image classification. Results on 7 real-world datasets show the superiority of Sphere2Vec over multiple location encoders on all three tasks. Further analysis shows that Sphere2Vec outperforms other location encoder models, especially in the polar regions and data-sparse areas because of its nature for spherical surface distance preservation. Code and data are available at https://gengchenmai.github.io/sphere2vec-website/.

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Gengchen Mai, Yao Xuan, Wenyun Zuo, Krzysztof Janowicz, Ni Lao

Generating learning-friendly representations for points in a 2D space is a fundamental and long-standing problem in machine learning. Recently, multi-scale encoding schemes (such as Space2Vec) were proposed to directly encode any point in 2D space as a high-dimensional vector, and has been successfully applied to various (geo)spatial prediction tasks. However, a map projection distortion problem rises when applying location encoding models to large-scale real-world GPS coordinate datasets (e.g., species images taken all over the world) - all current location encoding models are designed for encoding points in a 2D (Euclidean) space but not on a spherical surface, e.g., earth surface. To solve this problem, we propose a multi-scale location encoding model called Sphere2V ec which directly encodes point coordinates on a spherical surface while avoiding the mapprojection distortion problem. We provide theoretical proof that the Sphere2Vec encoding preserves the spherical surface distance between any two points. We also developed a unified view of distance-reserving encoding on spheres based on the Double Fourier Sphere (DFS). We apply Sphere2V ec to the geo-aware image classification task. Our analysis shows that Sphere2V ec outperforms other 2D space location encoder models especially on the polar regions and data-sparse areas for image classification tasks because of its nature for spherical surface distance preservation.

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