Multi-tailed vision transformer for efficient inference

Neural Netw. 2024 Jun:174:106235. doi: 10.1016/j.neunet.2024.106235. Epub 2024 Mar 14.


Recently, Vision Transformer (ViT) has achieved promising performance in image recognition and gradually serves as a powerful backbone in various vision tasks. To satisfy the sequential input of Transformer, the tail of ViT first splits each image into a sequence of visual tokens with a fixed length. Then, the following self-attention layers construct the global relationship between tokens to produce useful representation for the downstream tasks. Empirically, representing the image with more tokens leads to better performance, yet the quadratic computational complexity of self-attention layer to the number of tokens could seriously influence the efficiency of ViT's inference. For computational reduction, a few pruning methods progressively prune uninformative tokens in the Transformer encoder, while leaving the number of tokens before the Transformer untouched. In fact, fewer tokens as the input for the Transformer encoder can directly reduce the following computational cost. In this spirit, we propose a Multi-Tailed Vision Transformer (MT-ViT) in the paper. MT-ViT adopts multiple tails to produce visual sequences of different lengths for the following Transformer encoder. A tail predictor is introduced to decide which tail is the most efficient for the image to produce accurate prediction. Both modules are optimized in an end-to-end fashion, with the Gumbel-Softmax trick. Experiments on ImageNet-1K demonstrate that MT-ViT can achieve a significant reduction on FLOPs with no degradation of the accuracy and outperform compared methods in both accuracy and FLOPs.

Keywords: Dynamic neural network; Efficient inference; Vision transformer.