Google Research

A Unified Few-Shot Classification Benchmark to Compare Transfer and Meta Learning Approaches


Meta and transfer learning are two successful families of approaches to few-shot learning. Despite highly related goals, state-of-the-art advances in each family are measured largely in isolation of each other. As a result of diverging evaluation norms, a direct or thorough comparison of different approaches is challenging. To bridge this gap, we introduce a few-shot classification evaluation protocol named VTAB+MD with the explicit goal of facilitating sharing of insights from each community. We demonstrate its accessibility in practice by performing a cross-family study of the best transfer and meta learners which report on both a large-scale meta-learning benchmark (Meta-Dataset, MD), and a transfer learning benchmark (Visual Task Adaptation Benchmark, VTAB). We find that, on average, large-scale transfer methods (Big Transfer, BiT) outperform competing approaches on MD, even when trained only on ImageNet. In contrast, meta-learning approaches struggle to compete on VTAB when trained and validated on MD. However, BiT is not without limitations, and pushing for scale does not improve performance on highly out-of-distribution MD tasks. We hope that this work contributes to accelerating progress on few-shot learning research.

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