Bi-ViT: Pushing the Limit of Vision Transformer Quantization

Yanjing Li, Sheng Xu, Mingbao Lin, Xianbin Cao, Chuanjian Liu, Xiao Sun, Baochang Zhang

Vision transformers (ViTs) quantization offers a promising prospect to facilitate deploying large pre-trained networks on resource-limited devices. Fully-binarized ViTs (Bi-ViT) that pushes the quantization of ViTs to its limit remain largely unexplored and a very challenging task yet, due to their unacceptable performance. Through extensive empirical analyses, we identify the severe drop in ViT binarization is caused by attention distortion in self-attention, which technically stems from the gradient vanishing and ranking disorder. To address these issues, we first introduce a learnable scaling factor to reactivate the vanished gradients and illustrate its effectiveness through theoretical and experimental analyses. We then propose a ranking-aware distillation method to rectify the disordered ranking in a teacher-student framework. Bi-ViT achieves significant improvements over popular DeiT and Swin backbones in terms of Top-1 accuracy and FLOPs. For example, with DeiT-Tiny and Swin-Tiny, our method significantly outperforms baselines by 22.1% and 21.4% respectively, while 61.5x and 56.1x theoretical acceleration in terms of FLOPs compared with real-valued counterparts on ImageNet.

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