Generalized Focal Loss: Learning Qualified and Distributed Bounding Boxes for Dense Object Detection

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

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Xiang Li, Wenhai Wang, Lijun Wu, Shuo Chen, Xiaolin Hu, Jun Li, Jinhui Tang, Jian Yang


<p>One-stage detector basically formulates object detection as dense classification and localization (i.e., bounding box regression). The classification is usually optimized by Focal Loss and the box location is commonly learned under Dirac delta distribution. A recent trend for one-stage detectors is to introduce an \emph{individual} prediction branch to estimate the quality of localization, where the predicted quality facilitates the classification to improve detection performance. This paper delves into the \emph{representations} of the above three fundamental elements: quality estimation, classification and localization. Two problems are discovered in existing practices, including (1) the inconsistent usage of the quality estimation and classification between training and inference, and (2) the inflexible Dirac delta distribution for localization. To address the problems, we design new representations for these elements. Specifically, we merge the quality estimation into the class prediction vector to form a joint representation, and use a vector to represent arbitrary distribution of box locations. The improved representations eliminate the inconsistency risk and accurately depict the flexible distribution in real data, but contain \emph{continuous} labels, which is beyond the scope of Focal Loss. We then propose Generalized Focal Loss (GFL) that generalizes Focal Loss from its discrete form to the \emph{continuous} version for successful optimization. On COCO {\tt test-dev}, GFL achieves 45.0\% AP using ResNet-101 backbone, surpassing state-of-the-art SAPD (43.5\%) and ATSS (43.6\%) with higher or comparable inference speed.</p>