Keywords: [ regression ]
Deep neural networks are used for a wide range of regression problems. However, there exists a significant gap in accuracy between specialized approaches and generic direct regression in which a network is trained by minimizing the squared or absolute error of output labels. Prior work has shown that solving a regression problem with a set of binary classifiers can improve accuracy by utilizing well-studied binary classification algorithms. We introduce binary-encoded labels (BEL), which generalizes the application of binary classification to regression by providing a framework for considering arbitrary multi-bit values when encoding target values. We identify desirable properties of suitable encoding and decoding functions used for the conversion between real-valued and binary-encoded labels based on theoretical and empirical study. These properties highlight a tradeoff between classification error probability and error-correction capabilities of label encodings. BEL can be combined with off-the-shelf task-specific feature extractors and trained end-to-end. We propose a series of sample encoding, decoding, and training loss functions for BEL and demonstrate they result in lower error than direct regression and specialized approaches while being suitable for a diverse set of regression problems, network architectures, and evaluation metrics. BEL achieves state-of-the-art accuracies for several regression benchmarks. Code is available at https://github.com/ubc-aamodt-group/BEL_regression.