In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper

The Modality Focusing Hypothesis: Towards Understanding Crossmodal Knowledge Distillation

Zihui Xue · Zhengqi Gao · Sucheng Ren · Hang Zhao


Crossmodal knowledge distillation (KD) extends traditional knowledge distillation to the area of multimodal learning and demonstrates great success in various applications. To achieve knowledge transfer across modalities, a pretrained network from one modality is adopted as the teacher to provide supervision signals to a student network learning from the other modality. In contrast to the empirical success reported in prior works, the working mechanism of crossmodal KD remains a mystery. In this paper, we present a thorough understanding of crossmodal KD. We begin by providing two failure cases and demonstrate that KD is not a universal cure in crossmodal knowledge transfer. We then present the modality Venn diagram to understand modality relationships and the modality focusing hypothesis revealing the decisive factor in the efficacy of crossmodal KD. Experimental results on 6 multimodal datasets help justify our hypothesis, diagnose failure cases, and point directions to improve crossmodal knowledge transfer in the future.

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