On-Device ML Research With MLX And Swift

The Swift programming language has a lot of potential to be used for machine learning research because it combines the ease of use and high-level syntax of a language like Python with the speed of a compiled language like C++.

MLX is an array framework for machine learning research on Apple silicon. MLX is intended for research and not for production deployment of models in apps.

MLX Swift expands MLX to the Swift language, making experimentation on Apple silicon easier for ML researchers.

As part of this release we are including:

  • A comprehensive Swift API for MLX core
  • Higher level neural network and optimizers packages
  • An example of text generation with Mistral 7B
  • An example of MNIST training
  • A C API to MLX which acts as the bridge between Swift and the C++ core

We are releasing all of the above under a permissive MIT license.

This is a big step to enable ML researchers to experiment using Swift.


MLX has several important features for machine learning research that few if any existing Swift libraries support. These include:

  • Native support for hardware acceleration. MLX can run compute intensive operations on the CPU or GPU.
  • Automatic differentiation for training neural networks and the gradient-based machine learning models

For more information on MLX see the documentation.

The Swift programming language is fast, easy-to-use, and works well on Apple silicon. With MLX Swift, you now have a researcher-friendly machine learning framework with the ability to easily experiment on different platforms and devices.

A Quick Tour

Getting set up with MLX Swift is quick and easy with Xcode or SwiftPM.

In MLX Swift, building and performing operations with N-dimensional arrays is simple. In the following example, all of the operations will be run on the default device, which is the GPU unless otherwise specified.

import MLX
import MLXRandom

let r = MLXRandom.normal([2])
// array([-0.125875, 0.264235], dtype=float32)

let a = MLXArray(0 ..< 6, [3, 2])
// array([[0, 1],
//        [2, 3],
//        [4, 5]], dtype=int32)

// last element of 0th row
print(a[0, -1])
// array(2, dtype=int32)

// slice of the first two rows        
print(a[0 ..< 2])
// array([[0, 1],
//        [2, 3]], dtype=int32)

// add with broadcast
let b = a + r

// array([[-0.510713, 1.04633],
//        [1.48929, 3.04633],
//        [3.48929, 5.04633]], dtype=float32)

You can also use function transformations in MLX Swift. Function transformations in MLX are useful for training models with automatic differentiation as well as optimizing compute graphs for speed or memory use. Below is an example which computes the gradient of a function.

func fn(_ x: MLXArray) -> MLXArray {

let gradFn = grad(fn)

let x = MLXArray(1.5)
let dfdx = gradFn(x)

// prints 2 * 1.5 = 3

The documentation contains a few more complete examples to help you get started with MLX Swift:

  • Text generation with an LLM: A complete LLM text generation example with Mistral 7B. The example will generate text using any Mistral or Llama-style model including pre-quantized MLX models, many of which are available on Hugging Face.
  • Training an MLP on MNIST: The example trains a simple multi-layer perceptron to classify MNIST digits using the MLX Swift neural network and optimizers packages.

By: David Koski, Awni Hannun and Ronan Collobert
Originally published at: Swift Blog

Source: cyberpogo.com

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