Multimodality Helps Unimodality:
Cross-Modal Few-Shot Learning with Multimodal Models

Zhiqiu Lin* Samuel Yu* Amelia Kuang Deepak Pathak
Deva Ramanan
Carnegie Mellon University

CVPR 2022 Presentation


The ability to quickly learn a new task with minimal instruction -- known as few-shot learning -- is a central aspect of intelligent agents. Classical few-shot benchmarks make use of few-shot samples from a single modality, but such samples may not be sufficient to characterize an entire concept class. In contrast, humans use cross-modal information to learn new concepts efficiently. In this work, we demonstrate that one can indeed build a better visual dog classifier by reading about dogs and listening to them bark. To do so, we exploit the fact that recent multimodal foundation models such as CLIP are inherently cross-modal, mapping different modalities to the same representation space. Specifically, we propose a simple cross-modal adaptation approach that learns from few-shot examples spanning different modalities. By repurposing class names as additional one-shot training samples, we achieve SOTA results with an embarrassingly simple linear classifier for vision-language adaptation. Furthermore, we show that our approach can benefit existing methods such as prefix tuning and classifier ensembling. Finally, to explore other modalities beyond vision and language, we construct the first (to our knowledge) audiovisual few-shot benchmark and use cross-modal training to improve the performance of both image and audio classification.


Few-shot learning is less ambiguous with multimodality

A classic uni-modal few-shot setup can have an underspecified training set. For example, if the one-shot training image contains a golden retriever wearing a hat, how does the learner know if the task is to find dogs, golden retrievers, or even hats? On the other hand, humans have little trouble understanding and even generalizing from as few as one example. How so? We argue that humans make use of cross-modality when learning concepts. The example below demonstrates a one-shot learning scenario where the target concept is ambiguous with only vision modality, but becomes clear once we add information from other modalities like language and sound.

Cross-modal adaptation with multimodal models

In this paper, we demonstrate that cross-modal understanding of different modalities (such as image-text or image-audio) can improve the performance of individual modalities. That is, reading about dogs and listening to them bark can help build a better visual classifier for them! To do so, we present a remarkably simple strategy for cross-modal few-shot adaptation: we treat examples from different modalities as additional few-shot examples. Learning is straightforward when using frozen textual and visual encoders, such as CLIP, that map different modalities to the same representational space. Notably, language usually comes for free in image classification datasets in the form of a textual label per class, making it easy for us to convert an "n-shot" problem to a "(n+1)-shot" problem!

SOTA few-shot performance on 11 downstream classification tasks

In contrast to our cross-modal adaptation approach, most prior works simply follow the popular practice of finetuning unimodal foundation models, such as linear probing (CLIP) for large vision models, or prompting (CoOp and CoCoOp) and adapter (Tip-Adapter) for large language models. We find that all existing methods (including WiSE-FT) repurpose the additional text features as classifier weights instead of training samples. In this paper, we adopt the standard few-shot image classification benchmark for CLIP with 11 diverse datasets (e.g., ImageNet) and demonstrate that our method is a more effective use of text information (even a simple linear classifier can achieve SOTA) but can also benefit prior unimodal few-shot approaches.

Audio can improve image classification

We show that cross-modal adaption can generalize to audio modality (with the use of AudioCLIP). In other words, one can learn a better dog visual classifier by listening to a dog barking. Please check out the paper for our audiovisual few-shot learning benchmark and full experiments.

PyTorch-style pseudocode

Our method is more performant, lightweight and easy to implement than prior art. We have provided pseudocode to illustrate its ease of use. We hope cross-modal adaptation can serve as a valuable baseline for few-shot adaptation of multimodal models. For example, instead of separately benchmarking on "zero-shot" (one-shot-text) and few-shot-images, a cross-modal linear probe would suffice to evaluate representations of a multimodal model.


Zhiqiu Lin, Samuel Yu, Zhiyi Kuang, Deepak Pathak, Deva Ramanan.
Multimodality Helps Unimodality:
Cross-Modal Few-Shot Learning with Multimodal Models

CVPR 2023.
[Arxiv]     [Code]    


      title={Multimodality Helps Unimodality: Cross-Modal Few-Shot Learning with Multimodal Models},
      author={Lin, Zhiqiu and Yu, Samuel and Kuang, Zhiyi and Pathak, Deepak and Ramanan, Deva}


This research was supported by CMU Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research.