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Mar 16, 2021

This Chip for AI Works Using Light, Not Electrons

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

The idea of using light for computation is far from new, dating back to the 1950s. But electronic computing proved more practical to develop and commercialize. In the 1980s, Bell Labs tried to create a general purpose light-based chip, but it failed due to the difficulty of building a working optical transistor.

Lightmatter says its chips can be dropped into an existing data center and work with most major AI software. Later this year the company plans to launch a new technology for connecting chips, including those made by other companies, using its photonic technology. Light is widely used to shuttle information between computers, using fiber-optic cables.

Harris argues that AI will hit a wall in the next few years because of rising costs and energy use, and because of engineering constraints on the horizon. As engineers try to cram more transistors into a chip to speed up performance, chips may get too hot to manage.

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