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Motivated by the increasing interest in the posit numeric format, in this paper we evaluate the accuracy and efficiency of posit arithmetic in contrast to the traditional IEEE 754 32-bit floating-point (FP32) arithmetic. We first design and implement a Posit Arithmetic Unit (PAU), called POSAR, with flexible bit-sized arithmetic suitable for applications that can trade accuracy for savings in chip area. Next, we analyze the accuracy and efficiency of POSAR with a series of benchmarks including mathematical computations, ML kernels, NAS Parallel Benchmarks (NPB), and Cifar-10 CNN. This analysis is done on our implementation of POSAR integrated into a RISC-V Rocket Chip core in comparison with the IEEE 754-based Floting Point Unit (FPU) of
Rocket Chip. Our analysis shows that POSAR can outperform the FPU, but the results are not spectacular. For NPB, 32-bit posit achieves better accuracy than FP32 and improves the execution by up to 2%. However, POSAR with 32-bit posit needs 30% more FPGA resources compared to the FPU. For classic ML algorithms, we find that 8-bit posits are not suitable to replace FP32 because they exhibit low accuracy leading to wrong results. Instead, 16-bit posit offers the best option in terms of accuracy and efficiency. For example, 16-bit posit achieves the same Top-1 accuracy as FP32 on a Cifar-10 CNN with a speedup of 18%.

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