Making AI algorithms crazy fast using chips powered by light

The rise of deep learning has already sparked a boom in commercial activity around new chip designs optimized for the key mathematical calculations involved..But the equation is changing in the era of deep learning, Shen says..Optical chips are well suited to performing matrix multiplications, calculations that are central to deep learning. Neural networks are also inherently linear, and it’s linear computations at which optical devices excel..Shen says he and his colleagues at Lightelligence recently sent their first finalized chip design to a manufacturer and expect the first chips back in a few weeks..“It’s the nonintuitive aspect of deep learning that has changed how we look at physical and optoelectronic design..Dan Hutchinson, an analyst at VLSI Research who tracks innovative chip designs, says interest in novel optical chips is growing thanks to progress in the design and manufacture of devices used for networking..Optical chips are also relatively easy and cheap to make, which lowers the barrier to entry for startups, he says..Zhangxi Tan, a veteran of the chip industry and CEO of another chip startup, OURS Technology, says even if the chip works as promised, it could prove difficult to manufacture at scale..It will be a challenge to package and test a completely new chip design, especially when no good software design tools exist for such an optical device.. More details

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