Architecture-Agnostic Masked Image Modeling -- From ViT back to CNN

27 May 2022  ·  Siyuan Li, Di wu, Fang Wu, Zelin Zang, Kai Wang, Lei Shang, Baigui Sun, Hao Li, Stan. Z. Li ·

Masked image modeling (MIM), an emerging self-supervised pre-training method, has shown impressive success across numerous downstream vision tasks with Vision transformers (ViT). Its underlying idea is simple: a portion of the input image is randomly masked out and then reconstructed via the pre-text task. However, why MIM works well is not well explained, and previous studies insist that MIM primarily works for the Transformer family but is incompatible with CNNs. In this paper, we first study interactions among patches to understand what knowledge is learned and how it is acquired via the MIM task. We observe that MIM essentially teaches the model to learn better middle-level interactions among patches and extract more generalized features. Based on this fact, we propose an Architecture-Agnostic Masked Image Modeling framework (A$^2$MIM), which is compatible with not only Transformers but also CNNs in a unified way. Extensive experiments on popular benchmarks show that our A$^2$MIM learns better representations and endows the backbone model with the stronger capability to transfer to various downstream tasks for both Transformers and CNNs.

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