Distilling Image Classifiers in Object Detectors

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Authors

Shuxuan Guo, Jose M. Alvarez, Mathieu Salzmann

Abstract

Knowledge distillation constitutes a simple yet effective way to improve the performance of a compact student network by exploiting the knowledge of a more powerful teacher. Nevertheless, the knowledge distillation literature remains limited to the scenario where the student and the teacher tackle the same task. Here, we investigate the problem of transferring knowledge not only across architectures but also across tasks. To this end, we study the case of object detection and, instead of following the standard detector-to-detector distillation approach, introduce a classifier-to-detector knowledge transfer framework. In particular, we propose strategies to exploit the classification teacher to improve both the detector's recognition accuracy and localization performance. Our experiments on several detectors with different backbones demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, allowing us to outperform the state-of-the-art detector-to-detector distillation methods.