Self-supervised vision-and-language pretraining (VLP) aims to learn transferable multi-modal representations from large-scale image-text data and to achieve strong performances on a broad scope of vision-language tasks after finetuning. Previous mainstream VLP approaches typically adopt a two-step strategy relying on external object detectors to encode images in a multi-modal Transformer framework, which suffer from restrictive object concept space, limited image context and inefficient computation. In this paper, we propose an object-aware end-to-end VLP framework, which directly feeds image grid features from CNNs into the Transformer and learns the multi-modal representations jointly. More importantly, we propose to perform object knowledge distillation to facilitate learning cross-modal alignment at different semantic levels. To achieve that, we design two novel pretext tasks by taking object features and their semantic labels from external detectors as supervision:1.) Object-guided masked vision modeling task focuses on enforcing object-aware representation learning in the multi-modal Transformer; 2.) Phrase-region alignment task aims to improve cross-modal alignment by utilizing the similarities between noun phrases and object labels in the linguistic space. Extensive experiments on a wide range of vision-language tasks demonstrate the efficacy of our proposed framework, and we achieve competitive or superior performances over the existing pretraining strategies.
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