Understanding visually situated language requires recognizing text and visual elements, and interpreting complex layouts. State-of-the-art methods commonly use specialized pre-processing tools, such as optical character recognition (OCR) systems, that map document image inputs to extracted information in the space of textual tokens, and sometimes also employ large language models (LLMs) to reason in text token space. However, the gains from external tools and LLMs come at the cost of increased computational and engineering complexity. In this paper, we ask whether small pretrained image-to-text models can learn selective text or layout recognition and reasoning as an intermediate inference step in an end-to-end model for pixel-level visual language understanding. We incorporate the outputs of such OCR tools, LLMs, and larger multimodal models as intermediate ``rationales'' on training data, and train a small student model to predict both rationales and answers for input questions based on those training examples. A student model based on Pix2Struct (282M parameters) achieves consistent improvements on three visual document understanding benchmarks representing infographics, scanned documents, and figures, with improvements of more than 4\% absolute over a comparable Pix2Struct model that predicts answers directly.
Much of the previous work towards digital agents for graphical user interfaces (GUIs) has relied on text-based representations (derived from HTML or other structured data sources), which are not always readily available. These input representations have been often coupled with custom, task-specific action spaces. This paper focuses on creating agents that interact with the digital world using the same conceptual interface that humans commonly use -- via pixel-based screenshots and a generic action space corresponding to keyboard and mouse actions. Building upon recent progress in pixel-based pretraining, we show, for the first time, that it is possible for such agents to outperform human crowdworkers on the MiniWob++ benchmark of GUI-based instruction following tasks.
Internet links enable users to deepen their understanding of a topic by providing convenient access to related information. However, the majority of links are unanchored -- they link to a target webpage as a whole, and readers may expend considerable effort localizing the specific parts of the target webpage that enrich their understanding of the link's source context. To help readers effectively find information in linked webpages, we introduce the task of anchor prediction, where the goal is to identify the specific part of the linked target webpage that is most related to the source linking context. We release the AuthorAnchors dataset, a collection of 34K naturally-occurring anchored links, which reflect relevance judgments by the authors of the source article. To model reader relevance judgments, we annotate and release ReaderAnchors, an evaluation set of anchors that readers find useful. Our analysis shows that effective anchor prediction often requires jointly reasoning over lengthy source and target webpages to determine their implicit relations and identify parts of the target webpage that are related but not redundant. We benchmark a performant T5-based ranking approach to establish baseline performance on the task, finding ample room for improvement.
Formulating selective information needs results in queries that implicitly specify set operations, such as intersection, union, and difference. For instance, one might search for "shorebirds that are not sandpipers" or "science-fiction films shot in England". To study the ability of retrieval systems to meet such information needs, we construct QUEST, a dataset of 3357 natural language queries with implicit set operations, that map to a set of entities corresponding to Wikipedia documents. The dataset challenges models to match multiple constraints mentioned in queries with corresponding evidence in documents and correctly perform various set operations. The dataset is constructed semi-automatically using Wikipedia category names. Queries are automatically composed from individual categories, then paraphrased and further validated for naturalness and fluency by crowdworkers. Crowdworkers also assess the relevance of entities based on their documents and highlight attribution of query constraints to spans of document text. We analyze several modern retrieval systems, finding that they often struggle on such queries. Queries involving negation and conjunction are particularly challenging and systems are further challenged with combinations of these operations.
Large-scale multi-modal pre-training models such as CLIP and PaLI exhibit strong generalization on various visual domains and tasks. However, existing image classification benchmarks often evaluate recognition on a specific domain (e.g., outdoor images) or a specific task (e.g., classifying plant species), which falls short of evaluating whether pre-trained foundational models are universal visual recognizers. To address this, we formally present the task of Open-domain Visual Entity recognitioN (OVEN), where a model need to link an image onto a Wikipedia entity with respect to a text query. We construct OVEN-Wiki by re-purposing 14 existing datasets with all labels grounded onto one single label space: Wikipedia entities. OVEN challenges models to select among six million possible Wikipedia entities, making it a general visual recognition benchmark with the largest number of labels. Our study on state-of-the-art pre-trained models reveals large headroom in generalizing to the massive-scale label space. We show that a PaLI-based auto-regressive visual recognition model performs surprisingly well, even on Wikipedia entities that have never been seen during fine-tuning. We also find existing pretrained models yield different strengths: while PaLI-based models obtain higher overall performance, CLIP-based models are better at recognizing tail entities.
Visually-situated language is ubiquitous -- sources range from textbooks with diagrams to web pages with images and tables, to mobile apps with buttons and forms. Perhaps due to this diversity, previous work has typically relied on domain-specific recipes with limited sharing of the underlying data, model architectures, and objectives. We present Pix2Struct, a pretrained image-to-text model for purely visual language understanding, which can be finetuned on tasks containing visually-situated language. Pix2Struct is pretrained by learning to parse masked screenshots of web pages into simplified HTML. The web, with its richness of visual elements cleanly reflected in the HTML structure, provides a large source of pretraining data well suited to the diversity of downstream tasks. Intuitively, this objective subsumes common pretraining signals such as OCR, language modeling, image captioning. In addition to the novel pretraining strategy, we introduce a variable-resolution input representation and a more flexible integration of language and vision inputs, where language prompts such as questions are rendered directly on top of the input image. For the first time, we show that a single pretrained model can achieve state-of-the-art results in six out of nine tasks across four domains: documents, illustrations, user interfaces, and natural images.
Despite their strong performance on many tasks, pre-trained language models have been shown to struggle on out-of-distribution compositional generalization. Meanwhile, recent work has shown considerable improvements on many NLP tasks from model scaling. Can scaling up model size also improve compositional generalization in semantic parsing? We evaluate encoder-decoder models up to 11B parameters and decoder-only models up to 540B parameters, and compare model scaling curves for three different methods for transfer learning: fine-tuning all parameters, prompt tuning, and in-context learning. We observe that fine-tuning generally has flat or negative scaling curves on out-of-distribution compositional generalization in semantic parsing evaluations. In-context learning has positive scaling curves, but is generally outperformed by much smaller fine-tuned models. Prompt-tuning can outperform fine-tuning, suggesting further potential improvements from scaling as it exhibits a more positive scaling curve. Additionally, we identify several error trends that vary with model scale. For example, larger models are generally better at modeling the syntax of the output space, but are also more prone to certain types of overfitting. Overall, our study highlights limitations of current techniques for effectively leveraging model scale for compositional generalization, while our analysis also suggests promising directions for future work.
We introduce the task of recommendation set generation for entity-oriented exploratory search. Given an input search query which is open-ended or under-specified, the task is to present the user with an easily-understandable collection of query recommendations, with the goal of facilitating domain exploration or clarifying user intent. Traditional query recommendation systems select recommendations by identifying salient keywords in retrieved documents, or by querying an existing taxonomy or knowledge base for related concepts. In this work, we build a text-to-text model capable of generating a collection of recommendations directly, using the language model as a "soft" knowledge base capable of proposing new concepts not found in an existing taxonomy or set of retrieved documents. We train the model to generate recommendation sets which optimize a cost function designed to encourage comprehensiveness, interestingness, and non-redundancy. In thorough evaluations performed by crowd workers, we confirm the generalizability of our approach and the high quality of the generated recommendations.
Generic unstructured neural networks have been shown to struggle on out-of-distribution compositional generalization. Compositional data augmentation via example recombination has transferred some prior knowledge about compositionality to such black-box neural models for several semantic parsing tasks, but this often required task-specific engineering or provided limited gains. We present a more powerful data recombination method using a model called Compositional Structure Learner (CSL). CSL is a generative model with a quasi-synchronous context-free grammar backbone, which we induce from the training data. We sample recombined examples from CSL and add them to the fine-tuning data of a pre-trained sequence-to-sequence model (T5). This procedure effectively transfers most of CSL's compositional bias to T5 for diagnostic tasks, and results in a model even stronger than a T5-CSL ensemble on two real world compositional generalization tasks. This results in new state-of-the-art performance for these challenging semantic parsing tasks requiring generalization to both natural language variation and novel compositions of elements.
Despite their success, large pre-trained multilingual models have not completely alleviated the need for labeled data, which is cumbersome to collect for all target languages. Zero-shot cross-lingual transfer is emerging as a practical solution: pre-trained models later fine-tuned on one transfer language exhibit surprising performance when tested on many target languages. English is the dominant source language for transfer, as reinforced by popular zero-shot benchmarks. However, this default choice has not been systematically vetted. In our study, we compare English against other transfer languages for fine-tuning, on two pre-trained multilingual models (mBERT and mT5) and multiple classification and question answering tasks. We find that other high-resource languages such as German and Russian often transfer more effectively, especially when the set of target languages is diverse or unknown a priori. Unexpectedly, this can be true even when the training sets were automatically translated from English. This finding can have immediate impact on multilingual zero-shot systems, and should inform future benchmark designs.