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Multimodal Large Language Models (MLLMs) have recently sparked significant interest, which demonstrates emergent capabilities to serve as a general-purpose model for various vision-language tasks. However, existing methods mainly focus on limited types of instructions with a single image as visual context, which hinders the widespread availability of MLLMs. In this paper, we introduce the I4 benchmark to comprehensively evaluate the instruction following ability on complicated interleaved vision-language instructions, which involve intricate image-text sequential context, covering a diverse range of scenarios (e.g., visually-rich webpages/textbooks, lecture slides, embodied dialogue).

Systematic evaluation on our I4 benchmark reveals a common defect of existing methods: the Visual Prompt Generator (VPG) trained on image-captioning alignment objective tends to attend to common foreground information for captioning but struggles to extract specific information required by particular tasks. To address this issue, we propose a generic and lightweight controllable knowledge re-injection module, which utilizes the sophisticated reasoning ability of LLMs to control the VPG to conditionally extract instruction-specific visual information and re-inject it into the LLM. Further, we introduce an annotation-free cross-attention guided counterfactual image training strategy to methodically learn the proposed module by collaborating a cascade of foundation models. Enhanced by the proposed module and training strategy, we present Cheetor, a Transformer-based MLLM that can effectively handle a wide variety of interleaved vision-language instructions and achieves state-of-the-art zero-shot performance across all tasks of I4, without high-quality multimodal instruction tuning data. Cheetor also exhibits competitive performance compared with state-of-the-art instruction tuned models on MME benchmark.

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