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Chatting Makes Perfect: Chat-based Image Retrieval

Matan Levy · Rami Ben-Ari · Nir Darshan · Dani Lischinski

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #128
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[ Paper [ Slides [ Poster [ OpenReview
Wed 13 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


Chats emerge as an effective user-friendly approach for information retrieval, and are successfully employed in many domains, such as customer service, healthcare, and finance. However, existing image retrieval approaches typically address the case of a single query-to-image round, and the use of chats for image retrieval has been mostly overlooked. In this work, we introduce ChatIR: a chat-based image retrieval system that engages in a conversation with the user to elicit information, in addition to an initial query, in order to clarify the user's search intent. Motivated by the capabilities of today's foundation models, we leverage Large Language Models to generate follow-up questions to an initial image description. These questions form a dialog with the user in order to retrieve the desired image from a large corpus. In this study, we explore the capabilities of such a system tested on a large dataset and reveal that engaging in a dialog yields significant gains in image retrieval. We start by building an evaluation pipeline from an existing manually generated dataset and explore different modules and training strategies for ChatIR. Our comparison includes strong baselines derived from related applications trained with Reinforcement Learning. Our system is capable of retrieving the target image from a pool of 50K images with over 78% success rate after 5 dialogue rounds, compared to 75% when questions are asked by humans, and 64% for a single shot text-to-image retrieval. Extensive evaluations reveal the strong capabilities and examine the limitations of CharIR under different settings. Project repository is available at

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