Machine Learning in a data-limited regime: Augmenting experiments with synthetic data uncovers order in crumpled sheets

Science Advances (to appear) 2019  ·  Jordan Hoffmann, Yohai Bar-Sinai, Lisa Lee, Jovana Andrejevic, Shruti Mishra, Shmuel M. Rubinstein, Chris H. Rycroft ·

Machine learning has gained widespread attention as a powerful tool to identify structure in complex, high-dimensional data. However, these techniques are ostensibly inapplicable for experimental systems with limited data acquisition rates, due to the restricted size of the dataset. Here we introduce a strategy to resolve this impasse by augmenting the experimental dataset with synthetically generated data of a much simpler sister system. Specifically, we study spontaneously emerging local order in crease networks of crumpled thin sheets, a paradigmatic example of spatial complexity, and show that machine learning techniques can be effective even in a data-limited regime. This is achieved by augmenting the scarce experimental dataset with inexhaustible amounts of simulated data of flat-folded sheets, which are simple to simulate. This significantly improves the predictive power in a test problem of pattern completion and demonstrates the usefulness of machine learning in bench-top experiments where data is good but scarce.

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