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RIFormer: Keep Your Vision Backbone Effective but Removing Token Mixer

Jiahao Wang · Songyang Zhang · Yong Liu · Taiqiang Wu · Yujiu Yang · Xihui Liu · Kai Chen · Ping Luo · Dahua Lin

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 200


This paper studies how to keep a vision backbone effective while removing token mixers in its basic building blocks. Token mixers, as self-attention for vision transformers (ViTs), are intended to perform information communication between different spatial tokens but suffer from considerable computational cost and latency. However, directly removing them will lead to an incomplete model structure prior, and thus brings a significant accuracy drop. To this end, we first develop an RepIdentityFormer base on the re-parameterizing idea, to study the token mixer free model architecture. And we then explore the improved learning paradigm to break the limitation of simple token mixer free backbone, and summarize the empirical practice into 5 guidelines. Equipped with the proposed optimization strategy, we are able to build an extremely simple vision backbone with encouraging performance, while enjoying the high efficiency during inference. Extensive experiments and ablative analysis also demonstrate that the inductive bias of network architecture, can be incorporated into simple network structure with appropriate optimization strategy. We hope this work can serve as a starting point for the exploration of optimization-driven efficient network design.

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