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Visual Data-Type Understanding does not emerge from scaling Vision-Language Models

Vishaal Udandarao · Max F. Burg · Samuel Albanie · Matthias Bethge

Halle B #21
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Recent advances in the development of vision-language models (VLMs) are yielding remarkable success in recognizing visual semantic content, including impressive instances of compositional image understanding. Here, we introduce the novel task of Visual Data-Type Identification, a basic perceptual skill with implications for data curation (e.g., noisy data-removal from large datasets, domains pecific retrieval) and autonomous vision (e.g., distinguishing changing weather conditions from camera lens staining). We develop two datasets consisting of animal images altered across a diverse set of 27 visual data-types, spanning four broad categories. An extensive zero-shot evaluation of 39 VLMs, ranging from 100M to 80B parameters, shows a nuanced performance landscape. While VLMs are reasonably good at identifying certain stylistic data-types, such as cartoons and sketches, they struggle with simpler data-types arising from basic manipulations like image rotations or additive noise. Our findings reveal that (i) model scaling alone yields marginal gains for contrastively-trained models like CLIP, and (ii) there is a pronounced drop in performance for the largest auto-regressively trained VLMs like OpenFlamingo. This finding points to a blind spot in current frontier VLMs: they excel in recognizing semantic content but fail to acquire anunderstanding of visual data-types through scaling. By analyzing the pre-training distributions of these models and incorporating data-type information into the captions during fine-tuning, we achieve a significant enhancement in performance. By exploring this previously uncharted task, we aim to set the stage for further advancing VLMs to equip them with visual data-type understanding.

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