Residual Distillation: Towards Portable Deep Neural Networks without Shortcuts

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Guilin Li, Junlei Zhang, Yunhe Wang, Chuanjian Liu, Matthias Tan, Yunfeng Lin, Wei Zhang, Jiashi Feng, Tong Zhang


By transferring both features and gradients between different layers, shortcut connections explored by ResNets allow us to effectively train very deep neural networks up to hundreds of layers. However, the additional computation costs induced by those shortcuts are often overlooked. For example, during online inference, the shortcuts in ResNet-50 account for about 40 percent of the entire memory usage on feature maps, because the features in the preceding layers cannot be released until the subsequent calculation is completed. In this work, for the first time, we consider training the CNN models with shortcuts and deploying them without. In particular, we propose a novel joint-training framework to train plain CNN by leveraging the gradients of the ResNet counterpart. During forward step, the feature maps of the early stages of plain CNN are passed through later stages of both itself and the ResNet counterpart to calculate the loss. During backpropagation, gradients calculated from a mixture of these two parts are used to update the plainCNN network to solve the gradient vanishing problem. Extensive experiments on ImageNet/CIFAR10/CIFAR100 demonstrate that the plainCNN network without shortcuts generated by our approach can achieve the same level of accuracy as that of the ResNet baseline while achieving about $1.4\times $ speed-up and $1.25\times$ memory reduction. We also verified the feature transferability of our ImageNet pretrained plain-CNN network by fine-tuning it on MIT 67 and Caltech 101. Our results show that the performance of the plain-CNN is slightly higher than that of its baseline ResNet-50 on these two datasets. The codes are in: \href{}{\_Neurips2020}