Retrieval-Enhanced Contrastive Vision-Text Models

ICLR 2024(2023)

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Contrastive image-text models such as CLIP form the building blocks of many state-of-the-art systems. While they excel at recognizing common generic concepts, they still struggle on fine-grained entities which are rare, or even absent from the pre-training dataset. Hence, a key ingredient to their success has been the use of large-scale curated pre-training data aiming at expanding the set of concepts that they can memorize during the pre-training stage. In this work, we explore an alternative to encoding fine-grained knowledge directly into the model's parameters: we instead train the model to retrieve this knowledge from an external memory. Specifically, we propose to equip existing vision-text models with the ability to refine their embedding with cross-modal retrieved information from a memory at inference time, which greatly improves their zero-shot predictions. Remarkably, we show that this can be done with a light-weight, single-layer, fusion transformer on top of a frozen CLIP. Our experiments validate that our retrieval-enhanced contrastive (RECO) training improves CLIP performance substantially on several challenging fine-grained tasks: for example +10.9 on Stanford Cars, +10.2 on CUB-2011 and +7.3 on the recent OVEN benchmark.
vision-language models,retrieval,external memory,knowledge-based approaches
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