Training Transitive and Commutative Multimodal Transformers with LoReTTa

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Manuel Tran, Yashin Dicente Cid, Amal Lahiani, Fabian Theis, Tingying Peng, Eldad Klaiman


Training multimodal foundation models is challenging due to the limited availability of multimodal datasets. While many public datasets pair images with text, few combine images with audio or text with audio. Even rarer are datasets that align all three modalities at once. Critical domains such as healthcare, infrastructure, or transportation are particularly affected by missing modalities. This makes it difficult to integrate all modalities into a large pre-trained neural network that can be used out-of-the-box or fine-tuned for different downstream tasks. We introduce LoReTTa ($\textbf{L}$inking m$\textbf{O}$dalities with a t$\textbf{R}$ansitive and commutativ$\textbf{E}$ pre-$\textbf{T}$raining s$\textbf{T}$r$\textbf{A}$tegy) to address this understudied problem. Our self-supervised framework unifies causal modeling and masked modeling with the rules of commutativity and transitivity. This allows us to transition within and between modalities. As a result, our pre-trained models are better at exploring the true underlying joint probability distribution. Given a dataset containing only the disjoint combinations $(A, B)$ and $(B, C)$, LoReTTa can model the relation $A \leftrightarrow C$ with $A \leftrightarrow B \leftrightarrow C$. In particular, we show that a transformer pre-trained with LoReTTa can handle any mixture of modalities at inference time, including the never-seen pair $(A, C)$ and the triplet $(A, B, C)$. We extensively evaluate our approach on a synthetic, medical, and reinforcement learning dataset. Across different domains, our universal multimodal transformer consistently outperforms strong baselines such as GPT, BERT, and CLIP on tasks involving the missing modality tuple.