Dec 6

JavaScript-based MNIST demo

This is an online JavaScript-based digit recogniser using the MNIST data set. A demo is available at — you can draw a digit and see what the network thinks. It’s in the public domain, and source code is available.

It’s based on a two-layer neural network which was trained on a quad-core Intel i5. Training took between five and ten minutes (I didn’t make a note). Error is 3.8%, which is around what one should expect from a two-layer neural network.

The lesson I learnt from this is that preparation of the data is a significant part of the whole process. MNIST has some degree of antialiasing — not too much, but not too little either; letters are centred within the box, they occupy the full height, and so on. Get any of these things wrong and the neural network won’t be at all effective. It now does a reasonable, but not stellar, job, and I suspect that it could do better with more preprocessing, even without changing the neural network architecture.