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KDD 2020 | Unsupervised Translation via Hierarchical Anchoring: Functional Mapping of Places across Cities

Accepted Papers

Unsupervised Translation via Hierarchical Anchoring: Functional Mapping of Places across Cities

Takahiro Yabe: Purdue University; Kota Tsubouchi: Yahoo Japan Research; Toru Shimizu: Yahoo Japan; Yoshihide Sekimoto: The University of Tokyo; Satish Ukkusuri: Purdue University


Unsupervised translation has become a popular task in natural language processing (NLP) due to difficulties in collecting large scale parallel datasets. In the urban computing field, place embeddings generated using human mobility patterns via recurrent neural networks are used to understand the functionality of urban areas. Translating place embeddings across cities allow us to transfer knowledge across cities, which may be used for various downstream tasks such as planning new store locations. Despite such advances, current methods fail to translate place embeddings across domains with different scales (e.g. Tokyo to Niigata), due to the straightforward adoption of neural machine translation (NMT) methods from NLP, where vocabulary sizes are similar across languages. We refer to this issue as the domain imbalance problem in unsupervised translation tasks. We address this problem by proposing an unsupervised translation method that translates embeddings by exploiting common hierarchical structures that exist across imbalanced domains. The effectiveness of our method is tested using place embeddings generated from mobile phone data in 6 Japanese cities of heterogeneous sizes. Validation using landuse data clarify that using hierarchical anchors improves the translation accuracy across imbalanced domains. Our method is agnostic to input data type, thus could be applied to unsupervised translation tasks in various fields in addition to linguistics and urban computing.

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