Probing Inter-modality: Visual Parsing with Self-Attention for Vision-and-Language Pre-training

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Hongwei Xue, Yupan Huang, Bei Liu, Houwen Peng, Jianlong Fu, Houqiang Li, Jiebo Luo


Vision-Language Pre-training (VLP) aims to learn multi-modal representations from image-text pairs and serves for downstream vision-language tasks in a fine-tuning fashion. The dominant VLP models adopt a CNN-Transformer architecture, which embeds images with a CNN, and then aligns images and text with a Transformer. Visual relationship between visual contents plays an important role in image understanding and is the basic for inter-modal alignment learning. However, CNNs have limitations in visual relation learning due to local receptive field's weakness in modeling long-range dependencies. Thus the two objectives of learning visual relation and inter-modal alignment are encapsulated in the same Transformer network. Such design might restrict the inter-modal alignment learning in the Transformer by ignoring the specialized characteristic of each objective. To tackle this, we propose a fully Transformer visual embedding for VLP to better learn visual relation and further promote inter-modal alignment. Specifically, we propose a metric named Inter-Modality Flow (IMF) to measure the interaction between vision and language modalities (i.e., inter-modality). We also design a novel masking optimization mechanism named Masked Feature Regression (MFR) in Transformer to further promote the inter-modality learning. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the benefit of Transformer for visual feature learning in VLP. We verify our method on a wide range of vision-language tasks, including Visual Question Answering (VQA), Visual Entailment and Visual Reasoning. Our approach not only outperforms the state-of-the-art VLP performance, but also shows benefits on the IMF metric.