CNN Explainer: Learning Convolutional Neural Networks with Interactive Visualization

by   Zijie J. Wang, et al.

Deep learning's great success motivates many practitioners and students to learn about this exciting technology. However, it is often challenging for beginners to take their first step due to the complexity of understanding and applying deep learning. We present CNN Explainer, an interactive visualization tool designed for non-experts to learn and examine convolutional neural networks (CNNs), a foundational deep learning model architecture. Our tool addresses key challenges that novices face while learning about CNNs, which we identify from interviews with instructors and a survey with past students. Users can interactively visualize and inspect the data transformation and flow of intermediate results in a CNN. CNN Explainer tightly integrates a model overview that summarizes a CNN's structure, and on-demand, dynamic visual explanation views that help users understand the underlying components of CNNs. Through smooth transitions across levels of abstraction, our tool enables users to inspect the interplay between low-level operations (e.g., mathematical computations) and high-level outcomes (e.g., class predictions). To better understand our tool's benefits, we conducted a qualitative user study, which shows that CNN Explainer can help users more easily understand the inner workings of CNNs, and is engaging and enjoyable to use. We also derive design lessons from our study. Developed using modern web technologies, CNN Explainer runs locally in users' web browsers without the need for installation or specialized hardware, broadening the public's education access to modern deep learning techniques.


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