Dynamic Contrastive Distillation for Image-Text Retrieval

Although the vision-and-language pretraining (VLP) equipped cross-modal image-text retrieval (ITR) has achieved remarkable progress in the past two years, it suffers from a major drawback: the ever-increasing size of VLP models restricts its deployment to real-world search scenarios (where the high latency is unacceptable). To alleviate this problem, we present a novel plug-in dynamic contrastive distillation (DCD) framework to compress the large VLP models for the ITR task. Technically, we face the following two challenges: 1) the typical uni-modal metric learning approach is difficult to directly apply to the cross-modal tasks, due to the limited GPU memory to optimize too many negative samples during handling cross-modal fusion features. 2) it is inefficient to static optimize the student network from different hard samples, which have different effects on distillation learning and student network optimization. We try to overcome these challenges from two points. First, to achieve multi-modal contrastive learning, and balance the training costs and effects, we propose to use a teacher network to estimate the difficult samples for students, making the students absorb the powerful knowledge from pre-trained teachers, and master the knowledge from hard samples. Second, to dynamic learn from hard sample pairs, we propose dynamic distillation to dynamically learn samples of different difficulties, from the perspective of better balancing the difficulty of knowledge and students' self-learning ability. We successfully apply our proposed DCD strategy to two state-of-the-art vision-language pretrained models, i.e. ViLT and METER. Extensive experiments on MS-COCO and Flickr30K benchmarks show the effectiveness and efficiency of our DCD framework. Encouragingly, we can speed up the inference at least 129$\times$ compared to the existing ITR models.

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