Toward Transformer-Based Object Detection

12/17/2020 ∙ by Josh Beal, et al. ∙ 3

Transformers have become the dominant model in natural language processing, owing to their ability to pretrain on massive amounts of data, then transfer to smaller, more specific tasks via fine-tuning. The Vision Transformer was the first major attempt to apply a pure transformer model directly to images as input, demonstrating that as compared to convolutional networks, transformer-based architectures can achieve competitive results on benchmark classification tasks. However, the computational complexity of the attention operator means that we are limited to low-resolution inputs. For more complex tasks such as detection or segmentation, maintaining a high input resolution is crucial to ensure that models can properly identify and reflect fine details in their output. This naturally raises the question of whether or not transformer-based architectures such as the Vision Transformer are capable of performing tasks other than classification. In this paper, we determine that Vision Transformers can be used as a backbone by a common detection task head to produce competitive COCO results. The model that we propose, ViT-FRCNN, demonstrates several known properties associated with transformers, including large pretraining capacity and fast fine-tuning performance. We also investigate improvements over a standard detection backbone, including superior performance on out-of-domain images, better performance on large objects, and a lessened reliance on non-maximum suppression. We view ViT-FRCNN as an important stepping stone toward a pure-transformer solution of complex vision tasks such as object detection.

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