The Surprising Impact of Mask-Head Architecture on Novel Class Segmentation

Vighnesh Birodkar, Zhichao Lu, Siyang Li, Vivek Rathod, Jonathan Huang; Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2021, pp. 7015-7025


Instance segmentation models today are very accurate when trained on large annotated datasets, but collecting mask annotations at scale is prohibitively expensive. We address the partially supervised instance segmentation problem in which one can train on (significantly cheaper) bounding boxes for all categories but use masks only for a subset of categories. In this work, we focus on a popular family of models which apply differentiable cropping to a feature map and predict a mask based on the resulting crop. Under this family, we study Mask R-CNN and discover that instead of its default strategy of training the mask-head with a combination of proposals and groundtruth boxes, training the mask-head with only groundtruth boxes dramatically improves its performance on novel classes. This training strategy also allows us to take advantage of alternative mask-head architectures, which we exploit by replacing the typical mask-head of 2-4 layers with significantly deeper off-the-shelf architectures (e.g. ResNet, Hourglass models). While many of these architectures perform similarly when trained in fully supervised mode, our main finding is that they can generalize to novel classes in dramatically different ways. We call this ability of mask-heads to generalize to unseen classes the strong mask generalization effect and show that without any specialty modules or losses, we can achieve state-of-the-art results in the partially supervised COCO instance segmentation benchmark. Finally, we demonstrate that our effect is general, holding across underlying detection methodologies (including anchor-based, anchor-free or no detector at all) and across different backbone networks. Code and pre-trained models are available at

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@InProceedings{Birodkar_2021_ICCV, author = {Birodkar, Vighnesh and Lu, Zhichao and Li, Siyang and Rathod, Vivek and Huang, Jonathan}, title = {The Surprising Impact of Mask-Head Architecture on Novel Class Segmentation}, booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV)}, month = {October}, year = {2021}, pages = {7015-7025} }