Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 80:4055-4064, 2018.
Image generation has been successfully cast as an autoregressive sequence generation or transformation problem. Recent work has shown that self-attention is an effective way of modeling textual sequences. In this work, we generalize a recently proposed model architecture based on self-attention, the Transformer, to a sequence modeling formulation of image generation with a tractable likelihood. By restricting the self-attention mechanism to attend to local neighborhoods we significantly increase the size of images the model can process in practice, despite maintaining significantly larger receptive fields per layer than typical convolutional neural networks. While conceptually simple, our generative models significantly outperform the current state of the art in image generation on ImageNet, improving the best published negative log-likelihood on ImageNet from 3.83 to 3.77. We also present results on image super-resolution with a large magnification ratio, applying an encoder-decoder configuration of our architecture. In a human evaluation study, we find that images generated by our super-resolution model fool human observers three times more often than the previous state of the art.