Poly-NL: Linear Complexity Non-Local Layers With 3rd Order Polynomials

Spatial self-attention layers, in the form of Non-Local blocks, introduce long-range dependencies in Convolutional Neural Networks by computing pairwise similarities among all possible positions. Such pairwise functions underpin the effectiveness of non-local layers, but also determine a complexity that scales quadratically with respect to the input size both in space and time. This is a severely limiting factor that practically hinders the applicability of non-local blocks to even moderately sized inputs. Previous works focused on reducing the complexity by modifying the underlying matrix operations, however in this work we aim to retain full expressiveness of non-local layers while keeping complexity linear. We overcome the efficiency limitation of non-local blocks by framing them as special cases of 3rd order polynomial functions. This fact enables us to formulate novel fast Non-Local blocks, capable of reducing the complexity from quadratic to linear with no loss in performance, by replacing any direct computation of pairwise similarities with element-wise multiplications. The proposed method, which we dub as "Poly-NL", is competitive with state-of-the-art performance across image recognition, instance segmentation, and face detection tasks, while having considerably less computational overhead.

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