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Fast deep neural networks for image processing using posits and ARM scalable vector extension


With the advent of image processing and computer vision for automotive under real-time constraints, the need for fast and architecture-optimized arithmetic operations is crucial. Alternative and efficient representations for real numbers are starting to be explored, and among them, the recently introduced posit\(^{\mathrm{TM}}\) number system is highly promising. Furthermore, with the implementation of the architecture-specific mathematical library thoroughly targeting single-instruction multiple-data (SIMD) engines, the acceleration provided to deep neural networks framework is increasing. In this paper, we present the implementation of some core image processing operations exploiting the posit arithmetic and the ARM scalable vector extension SIMD engine. Moreover, we present applications of real-time image processing to the autonomous driving scenario, presenting benchmarks on the tinyDNN deep neural network (DNN) framework.

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This work is partially funded by H2020 European Processor Initiative (Grant agreement No 826647) and partially by the Italian Ministry of Education and Research (MIUR) in the framework of the CrossLab project (Departments of Excellence).

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Correspondence to Federico Rossi.

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Appendix: The posit designer tool

Appendix: The posit designer tool

When choosing the posit configuration, we need to take into account multiple factors, such as target dynamic range and target decimal precision. We developed a MATLAB tool to analyse different alternative representations for real numbers, and we provide posit configurations that match the requirements for converting a given format into its closest posit alternative, evaluating range and resolution of them. The tool provides the following information:

  1. 1.

    Number-type statistics such as the total number of bits, maximum value and \(\epsilon \) value (i.e. smallest step we can make from a number of that format). Figure 8 shows the output of this functionality. (In that figure, bin32_8 is a 32-bit float IEEE 754 with 8 bits for the exponent, i.e. a standard single-precision representation.)

  2. 2.

    Graphical evaluation of \(\epsilon \) value against the max value (in a logarithmic scale).

  3. 3.

    Next posit with 0 exponent bits that covers the dynamic range of a given number format. Figure 9 shows the output of this functionality.

  4. 4.

    posit to fixed type to build appropriate quire space for deferred rounding operations (such as exact multiply and accumulate).

Fig. 8
figure 8

Posit designer tabulated statistics for different number types

Fig. 9
figure 9

Posit designer output for posit with 0 exponent bits covering the posit\(\langle 16,3\rangle \) configuration

Furthermore, we derived a general formula that allows us to convert any posit\(\langle X,Y\rangle \) to any posit\(\langle Z,W\rangle \) (with \(X > Z\)) without losing the dynamic range coverage:

$$\begin{aligned} W \ge \log _2\left( \frac{X-2}{Z -2}\right) + Y. \end{aligned}$$

This may be useful when trying to reduce the number of bits during of neural network weights after we trained it. Table 6 shows an example of application of this formula.

Table 6 Conversion table between training and inference types

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Cococcioni, M., Rossi, F., Ruffaldi, E. et al. Fast deep neural networks for image processing using posits and ARM scalable vector extension. J Real-Time Image Proc 17, 759–771 (2020).

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  • Deep neural networks (DNNs)
  • Posit arithmetic
  • Scalable vector extension
  • Auto-vectorization
  • Real-time image processing
  • Autonomous driving