ImageNet-X: Understanding Model Mistakes with Factor of Variation Annotations

International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR)


Deep learning vision systems are widely deployed across applications where reliability is critical. However, even today’s best models can fail to recognize an object when its pose, lighting, or background varies. While existing benchmarks surface examples that are challenging for models, they do not explain why such mistakes arise. To address this need, we introduce ImageNet-X–a set of sixteen human annotations of factors such as pose, background, or lighting for the entire ImageNet-1k validation set as well as a random subset of 12k training images. Equipped with ImageNet-X, we investigate 2,200 current recognition models and study the types of mistakes as a function of model’s (1) architecture – e.g. transformer vs. convolutional –, (2) learning paradigm – e.g. supervised vs. self-supervised –, and (3) training procedures – e.g. data augmentation. Regardless of these choices, we find models have consistent failure modes across ImageNet-X categories. We also find that while data augmentation can improve robustness to certain factors, they induce spill-over effects to other factors. For example, color-jitter augmentation improves robustness to color and brightness, but surprisingly hurts robustness to pose. Together, these insights suggests that to advance the robustness of modern vision models, future research should focus on collecting additional diverse data and understanding data augmentation schemes. Along with these insights, we release a toolkit based on ImageNet-X to spur further study into the mistakes the image recognition systems make. Visit GitHub page here.

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