Independently Recurrent Neural Network (IndRNN): Building A Longer and Deeper RNN

CVPR 2018  ·  Shuai Li, Wanqing Li, Chris Cook, Ce Zhu, Yanbo Gao ·

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) have been widely used for processing sequential data. However, RNNs are commonly difficult to train due to the well-known gradient vanishing and exploding problems and hard to learn long-term patterns. Long short-term memory (LSTM) and gated recurrent unit (GRU) were developed to address these problems, but the use of hyperbolic tangent and the sigmoid action functions results in gradient decay over layers. Consequently, construction of an efficiently trainable deep network is challenging. In addition, all the neurons in an RNN layer are entangled together and their behaviour is hard to interpret. To address these problems, a new type of RNN, referred to as independently recurrent neural network (IndRNN), is proposed in this paper, where neurons in the same layer are independent of each other and they are connected across layers. We have shown that an IndRNN can be easily regulated to prevent the gradient exploding and vanishing problems while allowing the network to learn long-term dependencies. Moreover, an IndRNN can work with non-saturated activation functions such as relu (rectified linear unit) and be still trained robustly. Multiple IndRNNs can be stacked to construct a network that is deeper than the existing RNNs. Experimental results have shown that the proposed IndRNN is able to process very long sequences (over 5000 time steps), can be used to construct very deep networks (21 layers used in the experiment) and still be trained robustly. Better performances have been achieved on various tasks by using IndRNNs compared with the traditional RNN and LSTM. The code is available at

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Task Dataset Model Metric Name Metric Value Global Rank Result Benchmark
Skeleton Based Action Recognition NTU RGB+D Ind-RNN Accuracy (CV) 88.0 # 67
Accuracy (CS) 81.8 # 64
Language Modelling Penn Treebank (Character Level) IndRNN Bit per Character (BPC) 1.19 # 10
Sequential Image Classification Sequential MNIST IndRNN Unpermuted Accuracy 99% # 14
Permuted Accuracy 96% # 18