BWCP: Probabilistic Learning-to-Prune Channels for ConvNets via Batch Whitening

13 May 2021  ·  Wenqi Shao, Hang Yu, Zhaoyang Zhang, Hang Xu, Zhenguo Li, Ping Luo ·

This work presents a probabilistic channel pruning method to accelerate Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs). Previous pruning methods often zero out unimportant channels in training in a deterministic manner, which reduces CNN's learning capacity and results in suboptimal performance. To address this problem, we develop a probability-based pruning algorithm, called batch whitening channel pruning (BWCP), which can stochastically discard unimportant channels by modeling the probability of a channel being activated. BWCP has several merits. (1) It simultaneously trains and prunes CNNs from scratch in a probabilistic way, exploring larger network space than deterministic methods. (2) BWCP is empowered by the proposed batch whitening tool, which is able to empirically and theoretically increase the activation probability of useful channels while keeping unimportant channels unchanged without adding any extra parameters and computational cost in inference. (3) Extensive experiments on CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, and ImageNet with various network architectures show that BWCP outperforms its counterparts by achieving better accuracy given limited computational budgets. For example, ResNet50 pruned by BWCP has only 0.70\% Top-1 accuracy drop on ImageNet, while reducing 43.1\% FLOPs of the plain ResNet50.

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