The Evolution of Multimodal Foundation Models in Vision and Language: Transitioning from Specialists to General-Purpose Assistants

The Challenges Faced by the Computer Vision Community: A Comprehensive Overview

In the field of computer vision, experts encounter a wide array of challenges that need to be addressed. To tackle these challenges, numerous seminar papers were extensively discussed during the pretraining era, aiming to establish a comprehensive framework for introducing versatile visual tools. The prevailing approach during this period involved pretraining models on large volumes of problem-related data, which were then transferred to various real-world scenarios related to the same problem type. However, this method often relied on zero- or few-shot techniques.

In a recent study by Microsoft, researchers delve into the history and development of multimodal foundation models with vision and vision-language capabilities. This study primarily focuses on the transition from specialized to general-purpose helpers. The researchers identify three primary categories of instructional strategies: label supervision, image-only self-supervised learning, and multimodal foundation models. Let’s take a closer look at each of these strategies.

Label supervision refers to the use of previously labeled examples to train a model. This method has proven to be effective, with the use of datasets like ImageNet showcasing its success. Researchers can access a vast dataset from the internet, consisting of images and human-created labels. The strategy of language supervision, on the other hand, utilizes unsupervised text signals, primarily in the form of image-word pairs. Pretrained models like CLIP and ALIGN are examples of this approach, which compare image-text pairs using contrastive loss.

Image-only self-supervised learning relies solely on visuals as a source of supervision signals. This technique offers various options, such as masked image modeling, non-contrastive learning, and contrast-based learning. The researchers explore different approaches to visual comprehension, including picture captioning, visual question answering, region-level pretraining for grounding, and pixel-level pretraining for segmentation. By integrating these approaches, they aim to achieve the best results in terms of visual understanding.

Multimodal foundation models play a crucial role in comprehending and interpreting data presented in multiple modalities, such as text and images. These models eliminate the need for extensive data collection and synthesis, enabling a wide range of tasks. The study highlights several important multimodal conceptual frameworks, including CLIP, BEiT, CoCa, UniCL, MVP, BEiTv2, among others. Each of these frameworks possesses unique capabilities and contributes to the improved interpretation and processing of computer vision and natural language processing applications.

One of the key areas of focus within the study is T2I (Text-to-Image) production. T2I generation involves providing visuals that correspond to textual descriptions. Models trained on image-and-text pairs are commonly used for this purpose. The study introduces Stable Diffusion (SD) as an example of an open-source T2I model. SD utilizes cross-attention-based image-text fusion and diffusion-based creation methods. The model comprises three main components: Denoising Unified Neural Network (U-Net), Text Encoder (TEN), and Image Variational Autoencoder (VAE). These components work together to generate fresh images based on input conditions provided in the form of text.

Additionally, the study explores various techniques to improve spatial controllability in T2I generation. For instance, incorporating spatial conditions alongside text, such as region-grounded text descriptions or dense spatial requirements like segmentation masks and key points, enhances the model’s ability to follow textual input. The research also covers recent advancements in text-based editing models that allow photo modifications according to textual instructions, eliminating the need for user-generated masks.

To ensure that T2I models align well with human intent, the study emphasizes the importance of alignment-focused loss and rewards. Similar to how language models are fine-tuned for specific tasks, T2I models benefit from a closed-loop integration of content comprehension and generation. The concept of unified modeling, inspired by Language Models (LLM), is explored to build unified vision models for various activities and levels.

Despite the advancements made in open-world, unified, and interactive vision models, there are still fundamental gaps between the language and visual domains. Vision differs from language due to its reliance on capturing the world through raw signals. Unlike language, visual data lacks labels, making it challenging to convey meaning or expertise. The annotation of visual content, whether semantic or geospatial, is labor-intensive. Additionally, the diversity and cost of archiving visual data are higher compared to other languages.

In conclusion, research in the field of computer vision continues to address several challenges. The introduction of multimodal foundation models, such as CLIP, BEiT, and CoCa, has revolutionized the interpretation and processing of visual and textual data. T2I production has also witnessed significant advancements, enabling the generation of visuals based on textual descriptions. However, there are still gaps between the language and visual domains that need to be bridged.

Editor Notes: Exploring the latest developments in computer vision and multimodal foundation models is fascinating and highlights the immense potential of AI technology. The research conducted by Microsoft sheds light on the progress made in understanding and generating visuals based on textual input. These advancements have profound implications for various industries, including healthcare, entertainment, and e-commerce. To stay updated on the latest news and breakthroughs in the field of AI, visit GPT News Room.

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