ImageBART: Bidirectional Context with Multinomial Diffusion for Autoregressive Image Synthesis

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

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Patrick Esser, Robin Rombach, Andreas Blattmann, Bjorn Ommer


Autoregressive models and their sequential factorization of the data likelihood have recently demonstrated great potential for image representation and synthesis. Nevertheless, they incorporate image context in a linear 1D order by attending only to previously synthesized image patches above or to the left. Not only is this unidirectional, sequential bias of attention unnatural for images as it disregards large parts of a scene until synthesis is almost complete. It also processes the entire image on a single scale, thus ignoring more global contextual information up to the gist of the entire scene. As a remedy we incorporate a coarse-to-fine hierarchy of context by combining the autoregressive formulation with a multinomial diffusion process: Whereas a multistage diffusion process successively compresses and removes information to coarsen an image, we train a Markov chain to invert this process. In each stage, the resulting autoregressive ImageBART model progressively incorporates context from previous stages in a coarse-to-fine manner. Experiments demonstrate the gain over current autoregressive models, continuous diffusion probabilistic models, and latent variable models. Moreover, the approach enables to control the synthesis process and to trade compression rate against reconstruction accuracy, while still guaranteeing visually plausible results.