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Identifying subjects with variations caused by poses is one of the most challenging tasks in face recognition, since the difference in appearances caused by poses may be even larger than the difference due to identity. Inspired by the observation that pose variations change non-linearly but smoothly, we propose to learn pose-robust features by modeling the complex non-linear transform from the non-frontal face images to frontal ones through a deep network in a progressive way, termed as stacked progressive auto-encoders (SPAE). Specifically, each shallow progressive auto-encoder of the stacked network is designed to map the face images at large poses to a virtual view at smaller ones, and meanwhile keep those images already at smaller poses unchanged. Then, stacking multiple these shallow auto-encoders can convert non-frontal face images to frontal ones progressively, which means the pose variations are narrowed down to zero step by step. As a result, the outputs of the topmost hidden layers of the stacked network contain very small pose variations, which can be used as the pose-robust features for face recognition. An additional attractiveness of the proposed method is that no pose estimation is needed for the test images. The proposed method is evaluated on two datasets with pose variations, i.e., MultiPIE and FERET datasets, and the experimental results demonstrate the superiority of our method to the existing works, especially to those 2D ones.

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