Michael Tschannen, Eirikur Agustsson, Mario Lucic
We propose and study the problem of distribution-preserving lossy compression. Motivated by recent advances in extreme image compression which allow to maintain artifact-free reconstructions even at very low bitrates, we propose to optimize the rate-distortion tradeoff under the constraint that the reconstructed samples follow the distribution of the training data. The resulting compression system recovers both ends of the spectrum: On one hand, at zero bitrate it learns a generative model of the data, and at high enough bitrates it achieves perfect reconstruction. Furthermore, for intermediate bitrates it smoothly interpolates between learning a generative model of the training data and perfectly reconstructing the training samples. We study several methods to approximately solve the proposed optimization problem, including a novel combination of Wasserstein GAN and Wasserstein Autoencoder, and present an extensive theoretical and empirical characterization of the proposed compression systems.