Cross-domain alignment between two sets of entities (e.g., objects in an image, words in a sentence) is fundamental to both computer vision and natural language processing. Existing methods mainly focus on designing advanced attention mechanisms to simulate soft alignment, where no training signals are provided to explicitly encourage alignment. Plus, the learned attention matrices are often dense and difficult to interpret. We propose Graph Optimal Transport (GOT), a principled framework that builds upon recent advances in Optimal Transport (OT). In GOT, cross-domain alignment is formulated as a graph matching problem, by representing entities as a dynamically-constructed graph. Two types of OT distances are considered: (i) Wasserstein distance (WD) for node (entity) matching; and (ii) Gromov-Wasserstein distance (GWD) for edge (structure) matching. Both WD and GWD can be incorporated into existing neural network models, effectively acting as a drop-in regularizer.
The inferred transport plan also yields sparse and self-normalized alignment, enhancing the interpretability of the learned model. Experiments show consistent outperformance of GOT over baselines across a wide range of tasks, including image-text retrieval, visual question answering, image captioning, machine translation, and text summarization.