ReLeQ: A Reinforcement Learning Approach for Deep Quantization of Neural Networks

Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) typically require massive amount of computation resource in inference tasks for computer vision applications. Quantization can significantly reduce DNN computation and storage by decreasing the bitwidth of network encodings... Recent research affirms that carefully selecting the quantization levels for each layer can preserve the accuracy while pushing the bitwidth below eight bits. However, without arduous manual effort, this deep quantization can lead to significant accuracy loss, leaving it in a position of questionable utility. As such, deep quantization opens a large hyper-parameter space (bitwidth of the layers), the exploration of which is a major challenge. We propose a systematic approach to tackle this problem, by automating the process of discovering the quantization levels through an end-to-end deep reinforcement learning framework (ReLeQ). We adapt policy optimization methods to the problem of quantization, and focus on finding the best design decisions in choosing the state and action spaces, network architecture and training framework, as well as the tuning of various hyperparamters. We show how ReLeQ can balance speed and quality, and provide an asymmetric general solution for quantization of a large variety of deep networks (AlexNet, CIFAR-10, LeNet, MobileNet-V1, ResNet-20, SVHN, and VGG-11) that virtually preserves the accuracy (=< 0.3% loss) while minimizing the computation and storage cost. With these DNNs, ReLeQ enables conventional hardware to achieve 2.2x speedup over 8-bit execution. Similarly, a custom DNN accelerator achieves 2.0x speedup and energy reduction compared to 8-bit runs. These encouraging results mark ReLeQ as the initial step towards automating the deep quantization of neural networks. read more

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