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AI Engineer World's Fair (2024)

Deep Dive: Moondream: how does a tiny vision model slap so hard?


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Vikhyat Korrapati @vikhyatk / M87 Labs
Watch it on YouTube | AI.Engineer Talk Details


Vik presented Moonbeam, an open-source vision language model with less than 2 billion parameters. Despite its small size, Moonbeam performs comparably to models 4 times larger, like Lava 1.5.

Key Features of Moonbeam


  • Apache 2.0 licensed, allowing for flexible use
  • Capable of image captioning, object detection, and answering questions about images
  • Focused on accuracy and avoiding hallucinations
  • Designed as a developer tool rather than a general-purpose AI

Technical Details

Model Architecture


  • Fuses Google's SegLIP vision encoder with Microsoft's PHI 1.5 text model
  • Utilizes pre-trained models instead of training from scratch ($$$)

Training Data

  • Trained on approximately 35 million images
  • Relies heavily on synthetic data due to the high cost of human-annotated datasets

Synthetic Data Generation


  • Uses a sophisticated pipeline to process existing datasets like COCO and Localized Narratives
  • Employs careful prompt engineering to avoid hallucinations and model biases
  • Injects entropy into the data generation process to prevent model collapse

Key Learnings

  • Community engagement was crucial for development and adoption
  • Open-source nature facilitated community contributions and enterprise trust
  • Safety guardrails are best implemented at the application layer for dev tools
  • Tiny models have significant advantages in terms of efficiency and deployment flexibility
  • Prompting offers a superior developer experience compared to custom model training



Vik attempted a live demo using a webcam and Moonbeam running locally to describe what it sees in real-time. The demo showcased the model's ability to answer questions about the scene, such as whether the speaker was wearing glasses.

Future Directions

  • Working on more compressed image representations to improve processing speed
  • Raised seed funding and expanding the team and planning a major release later in the summer


Get Moondream over here on HuggingFace.

This talk provided a deep dive into the development of a compact yet powerful vision language model.

Vik's insights on synthetic data generation and the advantages of smaller models for real-world applications were particularly noteworthy. The emphasis on developer experience and open-source collaboration sets Moonbeam apart in the crowded field of AI models.