in AI, Experiment

With Love, A.I: TensorFlow, Keras, PyTorch And A Hodgepodge Of Other Libraries

Hodgepodge of AI Libraries

In the beginning there was FORTRAN one of the first widely spread high-level programming language. Then came Algol, PL/1, Pascal, COBOL, BASIC, C, Lisp and others and then came javascript, Python, PHP, Perl, Ruby and the more widely adopted object oriented programming languages C++ and Java. It took nearly 50 years to go from FORTRAN to Java.

In contrast, AI research has been in the works for many decades starting in the 1950s, there have been as many if not more libraries created in the past 10 years as there were programming languages created in the last 50 years.

Here is a chart of AI libraries and how many people “follow” them on github, interestingly, newest of the libraries, TensorFlow seems to be a few orders of magnitude more popular than the others. That doesn’t mean it’s the best AI library, in fact there is no such thing as an AI library (general purpose). My sense is that there are libraries that assist in developing AI applications and some are better suited for an application than others, depending on the problem being solved e.g. computer vision, natural language processing

Let’s take a quick look at what each of these libraries are suited for

TensorFlow – provides a collection of workflows to develop and train models using Python, JavaScript, or Swift, and to easily deploy in the cloud, on-prem, in the browser, or on-device no matter what language you use.

scikit-learn – machine learning library of algorithms for data analysis and regression in Python

BVLC/Caffe – Berkley Vision and Learning Centre’s Caffe is a deep learning library for processing images. Caffe can process over 60M images per day with a single NVIDIA K40 GPU

Keras – a deep learning Python library that runs on top of TensorFlow, Theano or CNTK. Primarily an experimentation framework assists in fast experimentation with models.

CNTK – Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit is a deep learning library that can be included in Python, C# or C++ code. It describes neural networks as a series of computational steps in a directed graph.

mxnet – A flexible and efficient library for deep learning.

“Deep learning denotes the modern incarnation of neural networks, and it’s the technology behind recent breakthroughs in self-driving cars, machine translation, speech recognition and more. While widespread interest in deep learning took off in 2012, deep learning has become an indispensable tool for countless industries.”


PyTorch – is an open-source machine learning library for Python, based on Torch, used for applications such as natural language processing.

PyTorch is a Python package that provides two high-level features:

  • Tensor computation (like NumPy) with strong GPU acceleration
  • Deep neural networks built on a tape-based autograd system

Theano – is a Python library that allows you to define, optimize, and evaluate mathematical expressions involving multi-dimensional arrays efficiently. 

Caffe2 – aims to provide an easy and straightforward way for you to experiment with deep learning and leverage community contributions of new models and algorithms. 

Torch7 – is a scientific computing framework with wide support for machine learning algorithms that puts GPUs first. It is easy to use and efficient, thanks to an easy and fast scripting language, LuaJIT

Ok great, this is a list of a few of the hundreds of AI libraries, so what? I can google them myself, what’s the point of this blog? I’m as deluded as I was before reading this blog, if I am just starting out in AI, which library should I pick, where should I start? The short answer is pick any library, you will be better off picking one and running with it and developing something than not picking any, you have to do it, might as well start now than later.

Of course a better answer might be, what do you seek to solve? Are you looking to programmatically recognize people’s faces or cars in a photograph of a busy street? You might want to start with the BVLC/Caffe. Here is a good presentation to get you started on Caffe

If you seek to solve parsing and understanding written or spoken word, may be PyTorch is the library to start with. Here is an interesting tutorial for creating a chatbot using PyTorch