Object-centric Learning with Cyclic Walks between Parts and Whole

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Ziyu Wang, Mike Zheng Shou, Mengmi Zhang


Learning object-centric representations from complex natural environments enables both humans and machines with reasoning abilities from low-level perceptual features. To capture compositional entities of the scene, we proposed cyclic walks between perceptual features extracted from vision transformers and object entities. First, a slot-attention module interfaces with these perceptual features and produces a finite set of slot representations. These slots can bind to any object entities in the scene via inter-slot competitions for attention. Next, we establish entity-feature correspondence with cyclic walks along high transition probability based on the pairwise similarity between perceptual features (aka "parts") and slot-binded object representations (aka "whole"). The whole is greater than its parts and the parts constitute the whole. The part-whole interactions form cycle consistencies, as supervisory signals, to train the slot-attention module. Our rigorous experiments on \textit{seven} image datasets in \textit{three} \textit{unsupervised} tasks demonstrate that the networks trained with our cyclic walks can disentangle foregrounds and backgrounds, discover objects, and segment semantic objects in complex scenes. In contrast to object-centric models attached with a decoder for the pixel-level or feature-level reconstructions, our cyclic walks provide strong learning signals, avoiding computation overheads and enhancing memory efficiency. Our source code and data are available at: \href{https://github.com/ZhangLab-DeepNeuroCogLab/Parts-Whole-Object-Centric-Learning/}{link}.