Bootstrap Your Own Prior: Towards Distribution-Agnostic Novel Class Discovery

Muli Yang · Liancheng Wang · Cheng Deng · Hanwang Zhang

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 329


Novel Class Discovery (NCD) aims to discover unknown classes without any annotation, by exploiting the transferable knowledge already learned from a base set of known classes. Existing works hold an impractical assumption that the novel class distribution prior is uniform, yet neglect the imbalanced nature of real-world data. In this paper, we relax this assumption by proposing a new challenging task: distribution-agnostic NCD, which allows data drawn from arbitrary unknown class distributions and thus renders existing methods useless or even harmful. We tackle this challenge by proposing a new method, dubbed “Bootstrapping Your Own Prior (BYOP)”, which iteratively estimates the class prior based on the model prediction itself. At each iteration, we devise a dynamic temperature technique that better estimates the class prior by encouraging sharper predictions for less-confident samples. Thus, BYOP obtains more accurate pseudo-labels for the novel samples, which are beneficial for the next training iteration. Extensive experiments show that existing methods suffer from imbalanced class distributions, while BYOP outperforms them by clear margins, demonstrating its effectiveness across various distribution scenarios.

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