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Manoj Rao

Your Average Common Man

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Here’s the story, I thought I had a billion dollar idea recently and found that there are at least tens of papers written about it, a successful startup and, a major open source project actively contributed to by hundreds of developers worldwide.

The idea was pretty simple: Machine Learning and Deep Learning domain is primarily dominated by code written by Applied Scientists who focus on the higher level frontend frameworks or “productivity” frameworks, as they are called. You know people who design different models for achieving a particular goal which takes a different muscle and skill.

However, what is clearly not available outside the closed doors of behemoth organizations is the easy access to efficient runtimes and inferences of Deep Learning Models since most applications as of today require careful tuning and training of parameters which occurs under the careful guidance of applied scientists.

TensorFlow, MXNet, PyTorch, are all examples of the frontend frameworks that provide different benefits to express sophisticated ideas through simple APIs (and sometimes automatically baked into such as automatic differentials computation in MXNet).

Companies like Nvidia, Intel, AMD, ARM, Qualcomm, are all scampering to come up with standard libraries that allow to take complete advantage of their hardware platforms which were previously unavailable without signing your soul away. Case in point, MKL, SNPE, Halide, ARM Compute Library, CUDA-DNN etc.

If the mobile revolution was anything to go by, the App Generation of developers kept playing the chasing game in keeping their apps in sync with the whims and fancies of each new generation and modification to their platforms. Many Android developers suffer from a particular flavor of PTSD that unites them like no other.

Deep Learning/Machine Learning domain attributing to the explosion of practical applications in recent times, their attractiveness in academia and industry has seen meteoric rise. This only meant there are all sorts of complex Neural Nets being invented for popular applications, say, Computer Vision with varied degrees of effectiveness in results.

It, therefore, implies that coming up with platform for marrying various permutations will only result in diluted and fragmented implementations at best.

An intermediate representation of the results from all the high level frameworks that can then be translated into each of the different target hardware environments with a transferable ML Cost Model should be the obvious place to look for low hanging fruits. As in, any implementation of such work should be lapped up by all the disparate vendors who then choose to compete in a level playing field with merit based results to show for their differentiation.

Turns out, there is such a thing in the form of TVM. I had heard of it but somehow could not bring my head out of wherever it was stuck. I was deeply embarassed.

But then, I realize that this is not a fail, it’s a validation of my thought, if anything. The fact that hundreds of smart, talented people have recently started to look closely into this field which has garnered attention from companies worldwide is net positive for the field. I honestly think this cannot be a field that would be saturated in any foreseeable future. Since, there is going to be disparate sets of hardware computes for different workloads (CPU, GPU, DSP, NPU etc) there is going to be room in this field for all sorts of research work.

This gives me hope that free markets might actually do good to emerging fields in technology after all.


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