Token Pooling in Vision Transformers

Despite the recent success in many applications, the high computational requirements of vision transformers limit their use in resource-constrained settings. While many existing methods improve the quadratic complexity of attention, in most vision transformers, self-attention is not the major computation bottleneck, e.g., more than 80% of the computation is spent on fully-connected layers... To improve the computational complexity of all layers, we propose a novel token downsampling method, called Token Pooling, efficiently exploiting redundancies in the images and intermediate token representations. We show that, under mild assumptions, softmax-attention acts as a high-dimensional low-pass (smoothing) filter. Thus, its output contains redundancy that can be pruned to achieve a better trade-off between the computational cost and accuracy. Our new technique accurately approximates a set of tokens by minimizing the reconstruction error caused by downsampling. We solve this optimization problem via cost-efficient clustering. We rigorously analyze and compare to prior downsampling methods. Our experiments show that Token Pooling significantly improves the cost-accuracy trade-off over the state-of-the-art downsampling. Token Pooling is a simple and effective operator that can benefit many architectures. Applied to DeiT, it achieves the same ImageNet top-1 accuracy using 42% fewer computations. read more

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