Gated Recurrent Unit Explained & How They Compare LSTM, RNN & CNN

by | Jan 30, 2023 | Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing

What is a Gated Recurrent Unit?

A Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU) is a Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) architecture type. It is similar to a Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) network but has fewer parameters and computational steps, making it more efficient for specific tasks. In a GRU, the hidden state at a given time step is controlled by “gates,” which determine the amount of information passed through to the next time step. This allows the network to selectively preserve or discard information, improving its ability to model long-term dependencies in sequential data.

Gates control the information flow in GRUs.

Gates control the information flow in GRUs.

GRU Applications

Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs) are Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) used to process sequential data. Some of the typical applications of GRUs include:

  1. Natural Language Processing (NLP): GRUs are often used in language modelling, machine translation, and text summarisation tasks.
  2. Speech recognition: GRUs are used to model how speech signals change over time in speech recognition systems.
  3. Time series forecasting: GRUs are used to predict future values in a time series based on past values, such as stock prices, weather forecasting, and energy consumption prediction.
  4. Image captioning: GRUs generate natural language captions for images by combining information from the image and the previous hidden state.
  5. Video analysis: GRUs look at video data and track objects, recognise activities, and summarise videos.
  6. Sentiment Analysis: GRUs classify text into positive, negative and neutral sentiment.
  7. Anomaly detection: GRUs identify unusual patterns in sequential data, such as detecting fraudulent transactions in financial data.

Most of the time, GRUs are the best choice when it’s important to model long-term dependencies in sequential data. They are also known for their ability to handle high-dimensional data and are less computationally expensive than LSTMs.

Types of GRU

Several types of Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs) have been proposed in the literature, each with slightly different variations on the original architecture. Some of the main types of GRUs include:

  1. Vanilla GRU: This is the original and most basic form of the GRU. It uses two gates, a reset gate and an update gate, to control the flow of information between the hidden state and the current input.
  2. Layer-normalised GRU (LNGRU): This variant of the GRU normalises the hidden state and the input before they are passed through the gates. This helps stabilise the training process and can improve the network’s performance.
  3. Recurrent Batch Normalisation (RBN): This variant of the GRU normalises the hidden state before it is passed through the gates. This helps stabilise the training process and can improve the network’s performance.
  4. Coupled Input and Forget Gates (CIFG): This variant of the GRU uses a single gate, the forget gate, to control the flow of information between the hidden state and the current input.
  5. Peephole GRU: This variant of the GRU uses the current input and the previous hidden state as inputs to the gates. This allows the network to use more information to control the flow of information.
  6. Minimal Gated Unit (MIGU): This variant of the GRU uses a minimal number of parameters. It uses only one gate, the forget gate, to control the flow of information between the hidden state and the current input.

These are some of the main types of GRUs that have been proposed in the literature. However, many other architecture variations have been proposed, and it’s worth noting that the best option will depend on the specific problem and dataset you are working with.

Gated Recurrent Unit vs LSTM

Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs) and Long Short-Term Memory (LSTMs) are both types of Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) that are used to process sequential data. Both architectures use a hidden state vector to store information about the past but they differ in how they update and use this information.

An LSTM has three gates: input, forget, and output. These gates control the flow of information into and out of the cell state, which is the part of the network that stores information about the past. The cell state is updated at each time step by combining the current and previous inputs.

On the other hand, a GRU has only two gates: the update gate and the reset gate. The update gate controls the amount of information passed from the previous hidden state to the current one, and the reset gate contains the amount of data discarded from the previous one. The current input is added to the last hidden state to create the new hidden state.

LSTM and GRU are robust architectures that can help model long-term dependencies in sequential data. However, LSTMs can have more parameters than GRUs and can be computationally more expensive, which makes GRUs more efficient in certain types of tasks.

Gated Recurrent Unit vs RNN

Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs) and Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) are both architectures used to process sequential data. However, there are some critical differences between the two.

A basic RNN uses a hidden state vector to store information about the past, passed from one time step to the next. The hidden state is updated at each time step based on the current input and the previous hidden state. But this simple architecture is prone to vanishing gradients, making it hard to train the network to model long-term dependencies in sequential data.

Conversely, a GRU uses gates to control the flow of information between the hidden state and the current input. The gates determine the amount of data passed through to the next time step and the amount of information discarded. This lets the network choose what information to keep and what to throw away, which can help it better model long-term dependencies in sequential data.

In summary, RNN is a basic architecture for sequential data processing. At the same time, GRU is an extension of RNN with a gating mechanism that helps address the problem of vanishing gradients and better-modelling long-term dependencies.

Gated Recurrent Unit vs Transformers

Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs) and Transformers are different types of neural network architectures used for various tasks.

GRUs are a type of Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) that are used to process sequential data. They use gates to control the flow of information between the hidden state and the current input, which allows them to selectively preserve or discard information and improve their ability to model long-term dependencies in sequential data. They are commonly used in natural language processing tasks such as language modelling and machine translation.

On the other hand, transformers are a type of neural network architecture introduced in the paper “Attention is All You Need”. They use self-attention mechanisms to weigh the importance of different input parts and combine them to produce the output. They are commonly used in natural language processing tasks such as language understanding, text generation, and machine translation.

In short, GRU is a type of Recurrent Neural Network. It is suitable for sequential data processing, while Transformers are a type of neural network that uses self-attention mechanisms for tasks such as natural language understanding, text generation and machine translation.

Convolutional Gated Recurrent Unit

A Convolutional Gated Recurrent Unit (CGRU) is a type of neural network architecture that combines the strengths of both Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) and Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs).

A CNN is a neural network commonly used in image and video processing tasks. It uses convolutional layers to find features in the data it receives and reduce the number of dimensions of the data.

A GRU is a Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) that uses gates to control the flow of information between the hidden state and the current input. It is used to process sequential data and can help to model long-term dependencies in the data.

In a CGRU, the convolutional layers extract features from the input data and reduce its dimensionality, similar to a CNN. However, instead of using fully connected layers, the features are passed through a GRU layer. This also allows the network to model the temporal dependencies between the features.

CGRU can be used when it is vital to process both spatial and temporal dependencies in the data, such as in video analysis, speech recognition, and time series forecasting.

Tools to implement GRU

Several tools and frameworks are available to implement Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs) in various programming languages. Some popular ones include:

  1. TensorFlow: TensorFlow is an open-source machine learning framework developed by Google. It provides built-in GRU layers that can be easily added to a model, along with other RNN layers such as LSTM and SimpleRNN.
  2. Keras: Keras is a Python-based high-level neural network API that runs on top of TensorFlow. It provides a simple and user-friendly interface to implement GRUs and other RNNs.
  3. PyTorch: PyTorch is another open-source machine learning framework that provides built-in GRU layers and other RNN layers that can be easily added to a model.
  4. Theano: Theano is an open-source numerical computation library for Python that allows you to define, optimise, and evaluate mathematical expressions involving multi-dimensional arrays. It provides a simple way to implement GRUs and other types of RNNs.
  5. MATLAB: MATLAB is a proprietary programming language and numerical computing environment developed by MathWorks. It has built-in support for implementing GRUs and other types of RNNs.

Some popular tools and libraries can be used to implement GRU models. Still, many more options are available depending on the specific programming language or platform you are working with.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs) are a type of Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) that use gates to control the flow of information between the hidden state and the current input.

They are designed to model long-term dependencies in sequential data. They have been used in various applications, such as natural language processing, speech recognition, and time series forecasting.

GRUs include Vanilla GRU, Layer-normalised GRU, Recurrent Batch Normalisation, Coupled Input and Forget Gates, Peephole GRU and Minimal Gated Unit. Each of these variations has slightly different architectures, and the best option will depend on the specific problem and dataset you are working with.

Additionally, a Convolutional Gated Recurrent Unit (CGRU) is also a type of neural network architecture that combines the strengths of both Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) and Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs), which can be used in applications where it’s crucial to process both spatial and temporal dependencies in the data.

About the Author

Neri Van Otten

Neri Van Otten

Neri Van Otten is the founder of Spot Intelligence, a machine learning engineer with over 12 years of experience specialising in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and deep learning innovation. Dedicated to making your projects succeed.

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