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A Unified Optimization Framework of ANN-SNN Conversion: Towards Optimal Mapping from Activation Values to Firing Rates

Haiyan Jiang · srinivas anumasa · Giulia De Masi · Huan Xiong · Bin Gu

Exhibit Hall 1 #401
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Abstract: Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) have gained significant attention for their energy-efficient and fast-inference capabilities, but training SNNs from scratch can be challenging due to the discrete nature of spikes. One alternative method is to convert an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) into an SNN, known as ANN-SNN conversion. Currently, existing ANN-SNN conversion methods often involve redesigning the ANN with a new activation function, rather than utilizing the traditional ReLU, and converting it to an SNN. However, these methods do not take into account the potential performance loss between the regular ANN with ReLU and the tailored ANN. In this work, we propose a unified optimization framework for ANN-SNN conversion that considers both performance loss and conversion error. To achieve this, we introduce the SlipReLU activation function, which is a weighted sum of the threshold-ReLU and the step function. Theoretical analysis demonstrates that conversion error can be zero on a range of shift values $\delta \in [-0.5,0.5]$ rather than a fixed shift term 0.5. We evaluate our SlipReLU method on CIFAR datasets, which shows that SlipReLU outperforms current ANN-SNN conversion methods and supervised training methods in terms of accuracy and latency. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first ANN-SNN conversion method that enables SNN inference using only 1 time step. Code is available at

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