Masked Path Modeling for Vision-and-Language Navigation

Zi-Yi Dou, Feng Gao, Nanyun Peng

Vision-and-language navigation (VLN) agents are trained to navigate in real-world environments by following natural language instructions. A major challenge in VLN is the limited availability of training data, which hinders the models' ability to generalize effectively. Previous approaches have attempted to address this issue by introducing additional supervision during training, often requiring costly human-annotated data that restricts scalability. In this paper, we introduce a masked path modeling (MPM) objective, which pretrains an agent using self-collected data for downstream navigation tasks. Our proposed method involves allowing the agent to actively explore navigation environments without a specific goal and collect the paths it traverses. Subsequently, we train the agent on this collected data to reconstruct the original path given a randomly masked subpath. This way, the agent can actively accumulate a diverse and substantial amount of data while learning conditional action generation. To evaluate the effectiveness of our technique, we conduct experiments on various VLN datasets and demonstrate the versatility of MPM across different levels of instruction complexity. Our results exhibit significant improvements in success rates, with enhancements of 1.32\%, 1.05\%, and 1.19\% on the val-unseen split of the Room-to-Room, Room-for-Room, and Room-across-Room datasets, respectively. Furthermore, we conduct an analysis that highlights the potential for additional improvements when the agent is allowed to explore unseen environments prior to testing.

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