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Time Series as Images: Vision Transformer for Irregularly Sampled Time Series

Zekun Li · Shiyang Li · Xifeng Yan

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #442
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Wed 13 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


Irregularly sampled time series are increasingly prevalent, particularly in medical domains. While various specialized methods have been developed to handle these irregularities, effectively modeling their complex dynamics and pronounced sparsity remains a challenge. This paper introduces a novel perspective by converting irregularly sampled time series into line graph images, then utilizing powerful pre-trained vision transformers for time series classification in the same way as image classification. This method not only largely simplifies specialized algorithm designs but also presents the potential to serve as a universal framework for time series modeling. Remarkably, despite its simplicity, our approach outperforms state-of-the-art specialized algorithms on several popular healthcare and human activity datasets. Especially in the rigorous leave-sensors-out setting where a portion of variables is omitted during testing, our method exhibits strong robustness against varying degrees of missing observations, achieving an impressive improvement of 42.8% in absolute F1 score points over leading specialized baselines even with half the variables masked. Code and data are available at

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