Unsupervised Representation Transfer for Small Networks: I Believe I Can Distill On-the-Fly

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Hee Min Choi, Hyoa Kang, Dokwan Oh


A current remarkable improvement of unsupervised visual representation learning is based on heavy networks with large-batch training. While recent methods have greatly reduced the gap between supervised and unsupervised performance of deep models such as ResNet-50, this development has been relatively limited for small models. In this work, we propose a novel unsupervised learning framework for small networks that combines deep self-supervised representation learning and knowledge distillation within one-phase training. In particular, a teacher model is trained to produce consistent cluster assignments between different views of the same image. Simultaneously, a student model is encouraged to mimic the prediction of on-the-fly self-supervised teacher. For effective knowledge transfer, we adopt the idea of domain classifier so that student training is guided by discriminative features invariant to the representational space shift between teacher and student. We also introduce a network driven multi-view generation paradigm to capture rich feature information contained in the network itself. Extensive experiments show that our student models surpass state-of-the-art offline distilled networks even from stronger self-supervised teachers as well as top-performing self-supervised models. Notably, our ResNet-18, trained with ResNet-50 teacher, achieves 68.3% ImageNet Top-1 accuracy on frozen feature linear evaluation, which is only 1.5% below the supervised baseline.