RelativeNAS: Relative Neural Architecture Search via Slow-Fast Learning


Despite the remarkable successes of convolutional neural networks (CNNs) in computer vision, it is time-consuming and error-prone to manually design a CNN. Among various neural architecture search (NAS) methods that are motivated to automate designs of high-performance CNNs, the differentiable NAS and population-based NAS are attracting increasing interests due to their unique characters. To benefit from the merits while overcoming the deficiencies of both, this work proposes a novel NAS method, RelativeNAS. As the key to efficient search, RelativeNAS performs joint learning between fast learners (i.e., decoded networks with relatively lower loss value) and slow learners in a pairwise manner. Moreover, since RelativeNAS only requires low-fidelity performance estimation to distinguish each pair of fast learner and slow learner, it saves certain computation costs for training the candidate architectures. The proposed RelativeNAS brings several unique advantages: 1) it achieves state-of-the-art performances on ImageNet with top-1 error rate of 24.88%, that is, outperforming DARTS and AmoebaNet-B by 1.82% and 1.12%, respectively; 2) it spends only 9 h with a single 1080Ti GPU to obtain the discovered cells, that is, 3.75x and 7875x faster than DARTS and AmoebaNet, respectively; and 3) it provides that the discovered cells obtained on CIFAR-10 can be directly transferred to object detection, semantic segmentation, and keypoint detection, yielding competitive results of 73.1% mAP on PASCAL VOC, 78.7% mIoU on Cityscapes, and 68.5% AP on MSCOCO, respectively. The implementation of RelativeNAS is available at

IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems