TensorFlow on Raspberry Pi: Just in Time for Pi Day!

This work was truly a team effort, so please check out the credits of the repo and give everyone there a warm e-hug.

TensorFlow gets smaller as it is getting bigger

Earlier today, I released instructions for compiling TensorFlow on the Raspberry Pi 3, as well as a pre-built Python wheel that can be used to install it directly. I’m hoping that this will enable some really cool projects involving both portable GPIO device-based learning and experimentation with TensorFlow’s distributed runtime. This has been an effort that has gone on since TensorFlow was open-sourced, and I’m really happy to be part of the group of people that made it happen.

What’s in the Repo

There are two main attractions to the repository: a pre-built Python wheel that can be used to easily install TensorFlow on a Raspberry Pi 3, and a step-by-step guide to building TensorFlow yourself.

Why Bother?

Several people have asked similar questions along the lines of: “Why would you want to run TensorFlow on a Raspberry Pi? Its compute power is miniscule.”

The first, quick answer: you probably don’t want to train your sophisticated models on a Raspberry Pi. Instead, train the model on a computer with more processing power (both CPU and GPU), and then move that pre-trained model onto the Pi for real-time use.

The second, more verbose answer:

With so much focus on the insane amount of computing power some companies are using to create breakthroughs in machine learning, such as Google’s AlphaGo recently beating Go champion Lee Sedol, it’s easy to get caught in the mindset that the only worthwhile machine learning problems require hundreds of GPUs. In truth, there are many applications that are on the opposite end of the spectrum- embedded devices with limited memory and processing power can also take advantage of machine learning. Unfortunately, you can’t keep throwing more hardware in a device smaller than your hand. We don’t want to require our smart health-monitors to be hooked up to the internet in order to detect anomalies- they should be able to use some sort of model built into the device. The hope is that by having a widely cross-compatible and powerful framework, the barrier to making ML-capable devices will be lowered and installing pre-trained models becomes less of a headache on devices with limited hardware.

Plus, having access to GPIO sensors and other devices could enable some really cool prototypes for machine learning that incorporate realtime data from their surroundings. Good stuff all around!

So check it out, let me know what works (and what doesn’t work), and let’s keep making TensorFlow a kick-ass framework with a kick-community.

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