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WebAssembly for ultra-lite ML models

TensorFlow.js now has a WebAssembly backend

Maika Möbus
WebAssembly
© Shutterstock / Illus_man

Faster machine learning in the browser: TensorFlow.js combines ML and JavaScript, and now the open source library works with a brand-new WebAssembly backend! It offers an alternative to the WebGL backend to provide benefits in certain use cases. Let’s take a closer look!

TensorFlow.js was developed by Google to let JavaScript developers dive into machine learning—and they don’t even need an advanced math degree to do so.

SEE ALSO: Web developers don’t need a math degree to get started with machine learning

The latest update to the open source machine learning library is a WebAssembly backend that was announced in a blog post. Let’s see what it can do!

The WebAssembly backend

WebAssembly (Wasm) is “a binary instruction format for a stack-based virtual machine” to serve as a portable target for compiling high-level languages on the web. It runs cross-browser and outside the browser.

The Wasm backend for TensorFlow.js offers support for the browser and Node.js and is designed to boost performance on lower-end mobile devices. After all, Wasm allows native decoding that is up to 20x faster than JavaScript can be parsed.

But be careful: In most cases, the previous WebGL backend will still outperform the Wasm backend. It can only be faster for ultra-lite models such as FaceMesh, which is designed “to infer the approximate surface geometry of a human face” and runs on WebAssembly:

As the WebGL backend is still in use as well, TensorFlow.js will define a priority for each backend and automatically choose which one to use in a specific environment. The TensorFlow team believes the Wasm backend will become increasingly popular as ultra-light models for edge devices are on the rise.

SEE ALSO: Introduction to machine learning in Node.js

You can install the WebAssembly backend either via npm or with script tags.

Head over to the TensorFlow Blog for further details.

Author
Maika Möbus
Maika Möbus has been an editor for Software & Support Media since January 2019. She studied Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

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