NengoDL allows Keras models to be integrated directly into a NengoDL network, through the use of nengo_dl.TensorNode (see this example). However, rather than keeping a model defined in Keras/TensorFlow, sometimes we may want to convert it to a native Nengo model (composed only of Nengo objects, such as nengo.Ensemble and nengo.Connection). One reason we might want to do this is if we want to be able to run the model on different Nengo backends. Keras models can only run in the NengoDL Simulator, but a native Nengo model can run in any Nengo Simulator (including backends for specialized neuromorphic hardware). Another reason we might want to convert a Keras model to a Nengo network is so that we can use Nengo’s spiking neuron types rather than the standard Keras/TensorFlow activation functions.

Whatever the motivation, the nengo_dl.Converter tool is designed to automate the translation from Keras to Nengo as much as possible. To use it, simply instantiate a Keras model and then pass it to the Converter:

inp = tf.keras.Input(shape=(28, 28, 3))
conv = tf.keras.layers.Conv2D(filters=32, kernel_size=3, activation=tf.nn.relu)(inp)
flat = tf.keras.layers.Flatten()(conv)
dense = tf.keras.layers.Dense(units=10, activation=tf.nn.relu)(flat)

model = tf.keras.Model(inputs=inp, outputs=dense)

converter = nengo_dl.Converter(model)

The Converter object will have a .net attribute which is the converted Nengo network. This can then be passed to a Nengo Simulator. For example, we could run that converted Keras network in the standard Nengo (not NengoDL) Simulator:

with nengo.Simulator( as sim:

The converter also has .inputs and .outputs attributes which can be used to look up the Nengo Nodes/Probes corresponding to the Keras model inputs/outputs. For example, to see the output of the converted network:

[[0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0.]]

nengo_dl.Converter has many options that control different aspects of the conversion process. For example, we could change all the tf.nn.relu activation functions in the Keras model to spiking neurons:

converter = nengo_dl.Converter(
    model, swap_activations={tf.nn.relu: nengo.SpikingRectifiedLinear()})

We will not go into all the available options here; see the API docs for more details.

Keep in mind that the Converter is designed to automate the translation process as much as possible, but it will not work for all possible Keras networks. In general, the Converter will fall back to using TensorNodes for any elements that cannot be converted to native Nengo objects (set allow_fallback=False if you would like this to be an error instead). The Converter.verify function can be used to check that the output of the Nengo network matches the output of the Keras model.

Extending the converter

Since we know that it will not be possible to automatically translate all possible Keras models, the Converter has been designed to be easily extensible. So if you have a model containing elements that the Converter does not know how to translate, you can augment the Converter with custom conversion logic.

For example, suppose we have a model containing a custom Keras layer:

class AddOne(tf.keras.layers.Layer):
    def call(self, inputs):
        return inputs + 1

inp = tf.keras.Input(shape=(1,))
dense = tf.keras.layers.Dense(units=10)(inp)
addone = AddOne()(dense)

model = tf.keras.Model(inputs=inp, outputs=addone)

Converter would fail to convert this model to native Nengo objects, since it does not know how to translate the AddOne layer:

converter = nengo_dl.Converter(model, allow_fallback=False)
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: Unable to convert layer add_one to native Nengo objects

We could set allow_fallback=True to use a TensorNode to implement the AddOne layer, but suppose we want to use native Nengo objects instead. We need to make a custom nengo_dl.converter.LayerConverter subclass, which contains the logic for translating an AddOne layer. Note that this may require some knowledge of how Keras layers work under the hood, which is not extensively documented. Your best bet may be to look at the existing LayerConverter classes to find a similar Layer type to start from.

As an example, here is how we might translate the AddOne layer:

class ConvertAddOne(nengo_dl.converter.LayerConverter):
    def convert(self, node_id):
        # create a Nengo object representing the output of this layer node
        output = self.add_nengo_obj(node_id)

        # connect up the input of the layer node
        self.add_connection(node_id, output)

        # create a node to output a constant 1 vector
        bias = nengo.Node([1] * output.size_in)

        # connect up the bias node to the output (thereby adding one to the
        # input values)
        conn = nengo.Connection(bias, output, synapse=None)

        # mark the above connection as non-trainable (since we didn't have any
        # trainable parameters in the AddOne layer, we don't want any in the
        # converted Nengo equivalent either)[conn].trainable = False

        return output

And now if we try to convert the original Keras model, we can see that it is successfully transformed into a native Nengo network:

converter = nengo_dl.Converter(model, allow_fallback=False)
assert converter.verify()