I am trying to understand the role of the Flatten function in Keras. Below is my code, which is a simple two-layer network. It takes in 2-dimensional data of shape (3, 2), and outputs 1-dimensional data of shape (1, 4):

model = Sequential()

model.add(Dense(16, input_shape=(3, 2)))

model.add(Activation('relu'))

model.add(Flatten())

model.add(Dense(4))

model.compile(loss='mean_squared_error', optimizer='SGD')

x = np.array([[[1, 2], [3, 4], [5, 6]]])

y = model.predict(x)

print y.shape

This prints out that y has shape (1, 4). However, if I remove the Flatten line, then it prints out that y has shape (1, 3, 4).

I don't understand this. From my understanding of neural networks, the model.add(Dense(16, input_shape=(3, 2))) function is creating a hidden fully-connected layer, with 16 nodes. Each of these nodes is connected to each of the 3x2 input elements. Therefore, the 16 nodes at the output of this first layer are already "flat". So, the output shape of the first layer should be (1, 16). Then, the second layer takes this as an input, and outputs data of shape (1, 4).

So if the output of the first layer is already "flat" and of shape (1, 16), why do I need to further flatten it?

Thanks!