CVPR 2023
Conference paper

Visual Dependency Transformers: Dependency Tree Emerges from Reversed Attention

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Humans possess a versatile mechanism for extracting structured representations of our visual world. When looking at an image, we can decompose the scene into entities and their parts as well as obtain the dependencies between them. To mimic such capability, we propose Visual Dependency Transformers (DependencyViT) that can induce visual dependencies without any labels. We achieve that with a novel neural operator called \emph{reversed attention} that can naturally capture long-range visual dependencies between image patches. Specifically, we formulate it as a dependency graph where a child token in reversed attention is trained to attend to its parent tokens and send information following a normalized probability distribution rather than gathering information in conventional self-attention. With such a design, hierarchies naturally emerge from reversed attention layers, and a dependency tree is progressively induced from leaf nodes to the root node unsupervisedly. DependencyViT offers several appealing benefits. (i) Entities and their parts in an image are represented by different subtrees, enabling part partitioning from dependencies; (ii) Dynamic visual pooling is made possible. The leaf nodes which rarely send messages can be pruned without hindering the model performance, based on which we propose the lightweight DependencyViT-Lite to reduce the computational and memory footprints; (iii) DependencyViT works well on both self- and weakly-supervised pretraining paradigms on ImageNet, and demonstrates its effectiveness on 8 datasets and 5 tasks, such as unsupervised part and saliency segmentation, recognition, and detection.