Posted by Han Zhang, Research Scientist and Jing Yu Koh, Software Engineer, Google Research
Automatic text-to-image synthesis, in which a model is trained to generate images from text descriptions alone, is a challenging task that has recently received significant attention. Its study provides rich insights into how machine learning (ML) models capture visual attributes and relate them to text. Compared to other kinds of inputs to guide image creation, such as sketches, object masks or mouse traces (which we have highlighted in prior work), descriptive sentences are a more intuitive and flexible way to express visual concepts. Hence, a strong automatic text-to-image generation system can also be a useful tool for rapid content creation and could be applied to many other creative applications, similar to other efforts to integrate machine learning into the creation of art (e.g., Magenta).
State-of-the-art image synthesis results are typically achieved using generative adversarial networks (GANs), which train two models — a generator, which tries to create realistic images, and a discriminator, which tries to determine if an image is real or fabricated. Many text-to-image generation models are GANs that are conditioned using text inputs in order to generate semantically relevant images. This is significantly challenging, especially when long, ambiguous descriptions are provided. Moreover, GAN training can be prone to mode collapse, a common failure case for the training process in which the generator learns to produce only a limited set of outputs, so that the discriminator fails to learn robust strategies to recognize fabricated images. To mitigate mode collapse, some approaches use multi-stage refinement networks that iteratively refine an image. However, such systems require multi-stage training, which is less efficient than simpler single-stage end-to-end models. Other efforts rely on hierarchical approaches that first model object layouts before finally synthesizing a realistic image. This requires the use of labeled segmentation data, which can be difficult to obtain.
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