To Spike or Not To Spike: A Digital Hardware Perspective on Deep Learning Acceleration

by   Fabrizio Ottati, et al.

As deep learning models scale, they become increasingly competitive from domains spanning computer vision to natural language processing; however, this happens at the expense of efficiency since they require increasingly more memory and computing power. The power efficiency of the biological brain outperforms the one of any large-scale deep learning (DL) model; thus, neuromorphic computing tries to mimic the brain operations, such as spike-based information processing, to improve the efficiency of DL models. Despite the benefits of the brain, such as efficient information transmission, dense neuronal interconnects, and the co-location of computation and memory, the available biological substrate has severely constrained the evolution of biological brains. Electronic hardware does not have the same constraints; therefore, while modeling spiking neural networks (SNNs) might uncover one piece of the puzzle, the design of efficient hardware backends for SNNs needs further investigation, potentially taking inspiration from the available work done on the artificial neural networks (ANN s) side. As such, when is it wise to look at the brain while designing new hardware, and when should it be ignored? To answer this question, we quantitatively compare the digital hardware acceleration techniques and platforms of ANN s and SNNs.


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